Pope Francis has called for Ecclesiastical Cleansing of the Ahiara Catholic Diocese to intercede for Godâ€™s love and mercies for all the faithful in the diocese.
Popeâ€™s directive was conveyed in a letter read at the 2018 Chrism Mass wednesday in Abuja.
Chrism Mass is an annual Mass celebrated in every Catholic Diocese by the Bishop. At the Mass, the priests renew their vows and the three oils used in the church are also blessed by the bishop.
The Chrism Mass ushers in the Easter Tridum (last supper, Good Friday and Holy Saturday).
The letter, which was read by Rev Fr Rowland Nwakpuda at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, said the Pope called for spiritual rebirth of the Ahiara Diocese.
John Cardinal Oniayekan, the Catholic Arch Bishop of Abuja, said he received the papal letter and was asked that it should be read to all the Catholic faithful in Nigeria.
He said certain decisions had been taken by the Pope concerning the diocese and the Church of Nigeria would continue to wait and would respect the orders of the Pope.
Oniayekan, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said the Holy Father condemned the irresponsible and unfortunate act of the Ahiara priests, and noted that the whole church had been affected by it.
Onaiyekan added that the Pope commended the humility of Bishop Peter Okparaeke who resigned his appointment as the Bishop of the Diocese.
He added that the Pope called on all Catholic Bishops of Nigeria to ensure spiritual rebirth of the church in Ahiara.
Oniayekan quoted the Pope as saying the priest of Ahiara Diocese should renew their priestly vows with commitment and show honest solidarity to the church.
The bishop said the Holy Father, in the letter, noted that he received 200 letters of apology from the Ahiara priests and had responded to each person individually.
â€œEvery priest should renew their vows publicly, also the lay faithful,â€™â€™ Pope said.
The Pope also urged the Laity to ensure that they helped their priests to do the right thing as he still had special interest in the diocese.
The Clergy and the Laity of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara-Mbaise in Imo State had refused to accept Bishop Okpalaekeâ€™s appointment as their local ordinary on grounds that he is an Mbaise indigene.
The stalemate lingered as the priests of Ahiara insisted that one of the priests of the Mbaise origin should be chosen as the bishop of Ahiara.
Okpalaeke had on February 14, 2018 written to the Vatican, asking that he be relieved of the dioceseâ€™ headship and be posted to any other area of assignment, where God and the Holy Father may deem fit, to enable him continue in service.
His resignation was accepted and Most Rev Lucius Ugorji, Bishop of Umuahia Diocese, was appointed as the new apostolic administrator of the Diocese.