From: AIDOGHIE PAULINUS, Abuja
The last may not have been heard about the over four years crisis bedevilling the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara.
Barely any last minute change, His Holiness Pope Francis will decide the fate of the rebellious Ahiara Diocesan priests within a week.
Recall that in December 2012, the clergy and the Laity of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara, refused to accept Bishop Peter Okpalaeke, the bishop appointed as their local ordinary on grounds that he is not of Mbaise extraction.
Until his appointment to the See of Ahiara, Okpalaeke was a priest of Awka Diocese.
The priests insisted that one out of the over 700 priests of the Mbaise origin should be chosen as the bishop of Ahiara.
After receiving a delegation of the Catholic hierarchy in Nigeria, Pope Francis had, on June 8, 2017, gave all the diocesan clergy 30 days to personally write to the Vatican, pledging obedience to the Pope and accepting Bishop Okpalaeke as their bishop.
The directive (Papal Text) which was published on the personal blog of the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria and Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama, stated that “those who failed to write would be suspended a divinis.“
A highly-placed source within the Catholic Church, told Daily Sun that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Nigeria was awaiting the response of the Holy see in a week time.
The source acknowledged that the priests have all written their apology letters to the Pope as directed and was awaiting the response of the Holy See.
Asked about the worst fate that could befall on the Ahiara priests, the source said the priests could be suspended a divinis, which means ‘suspended from divine actions.’
According to the source, “Suspending a priest a divinis is much more than withdrawing a priest’s faculty. And when that happens, I think the Laity would be involved.”
On the controversy surrounding the originality of the Pope’s directive, the source hinted that the directive from the Pope originally came in Italian.
The source said the delegation met the Pope at 11am on June 8, 2017, and two secretaries who were in attendance, one sitting on either side of the room, took note of the Pope’s speech.
According to the source, “the speech was prepared as an official statement and was taken to the Pope in the evening to append his signature.
“It was translated into English early the following day by Propaganda Fide, after the Pope has approved the text.”