Ahiara Diocese Crisis: Appointment of Bishops Not Based on Quota System, Federal Character, Says CBCN

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Kaigama begs priests to obey Pope’s order
Paul Obi in Abuja

Following the controversy trailing the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara, Imo State and the rejection of Bishop Peter Okpaleke, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) yesterday said appointment of Bishops by the church is not based on quota system and federal character policy.

The appointment of Bishop Okpaleke by the former Pope, Benedict XVi in 2012 sparked controversy resulting in the rejection of the bishop by the resident priests.

Pope Francis I, had last week summoned some priests of the diocese to the Vatican in Rome, Italy to settle the matter where he ordered that the priests write a written apology within one month.
But speaking with THISDAY, CBCN President and Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama, explained that the priests need to take the Pope’s demand seriously and obey it squarely.

He said: “The advice is from the Pope, not from me, not from the conference of Bishops. We had already given our advice long ago, individually and collectively, pleading that they should listen to the Pope, that was not forthcoming.

“The Pope then invited us; unfortunately, five of the priests invited who are opposed to the Bishop didn’t come to Rome.”
On the over concentration of bishops’ appointment in Owerri and Onitsha, Kaigama contended that “the appointment of Bishop in the Catholic Church is not based on quota system, it is not based on federal character, it is how the spirit moves.

“I can assure you that there was a time where a Bishop from Ahiara was about to be appointed but for some reasons, it couldn’t work. They had to look elsewhere and they looked at the neighbouring Diocese of Akwa which could provide leadership to avoid waste of time.

“It is not about how many number of priests you have, it is not about how educated you are. Please, this is the Holy Spirit. The appointment of a Catholic Bishop is the most credible; there’s confidentiality, absolute transparency and consultation of persons you don’t know of. You may say oh, we have everybody here qualified, they may have information that you don’t have,” Kaigama stated.

Speaking against the backdrop of growing concern over the appointment of Bishops outside the locality of the diocese, Kaigama stated that “that is a healthy development for the Catholic Church, because, we are universal. The Pope is not from Italy, he is from Argentina, the previous Pope is from Germany but the Italian people and the whole world embraced him. Even Pope John Paul II, he is from Poland, but the Italian people and the whole world accepted him, that’s the nature of the Catholic Church.

“We don’t count about region, about tribe, ethnic affiliations, clans and political considerations. What is good for the church, the church sees it. The Catholic Church has a tradition of over 2000 years, appointment of Bishops, creating dioceses and doing what is good for the church.

“I am the Archbishop of Jos, I come from Jalingo Diocese. In the whole of our province here, no Bishop is from his own area. The Bishop of Yola is from Maidugiri, the Bishop of Maidugiri is from Jos, the Bishop of Bauchi now is from Shedam, the Bishop of Shedam is from Jos” he stressed.
Kaigama further pleaded with priests from Ahiara Diocese to reason and obey Pope Francis I by writing the apology letter.

The Archbishop said: “The Pope was in pain, he was sad and seriously troubled, So I plead with them to write the letter and say we are sorry,” adding that, “everyone have been wounded; they have been wounded, we as a conference have been wounded, the Cardinal in Rome has also been wounded, abused and maligned,” Kaigama pleaded.