From David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
Alleged refusal of five Holy Ghost priests to vacate St Martin of Tours Parish, Ihiala in Ihiala Local Government Area, Anambra State, has further worsened the priests’ relationship with the Diocesan Bishop, who the embattled priests accused of forcing them out with policemen from the state command.
Speaking to journalists yesterday at the Assumption Cathedral, Nnewi, the Catholic Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Most Rev Jonas Okoye debunked the allegation that the parish was invaded.
The bishop who was represented at the briefing by the Episcopal Vicar of Ozubulu Region, Rev Fr Hygenus Aghaulor and the Diocesan Director of Communications, Rev Fr Martin Onwudiwe, said that some texts making the rounds on social media bore false accusations that the diocese and its bishop invaded the church premises.
“They are falsely accusing the Diocese and the Bishop of invading the premises with armed policemen suspected to be there to threaten and force the priests out in order to take over the parish.
“We recall that the recent relocation of priests in Nnewi Diocese affected the priests in St Martin of Tour, Ihiala, yet till this moment they have refused to vacate,” the bishop said.
He further explained that the policemen sent to the parish in Ihiala by the Diocese were there to protect the property of the church, especially the Blessed Sacrament.
The Bishop said on November 11, 2022, the Blessed Sacrament was made away with from St Christopher Catholic Church, Ihiala and All Saints Parish, Oraifite on November 14, 2022, respectively.
Bishop Okoye disclosed that the policemen sent to the church got express briefing from him never to fire any gunshot nor use teargas while at the premises.
He said the security men were strictly warned not to touch any priest, adding that it was the reason the policemen left the scene when thugs allegedly confronted them.
Recall that the affected Holy Ghost priests were said to have been having issues with Bishop Okoye in connection their residency in the parish.
It was gathered that the Bishop, for the reasons of creating a new parish, had told the Spiritan priests to vacate the parsonage of the church for administrative convenience.
Based on the claims that the organization which the Spiritan priests belong to had been the occupants of the parish in question for more than a century, they were said to have turned down the Bishop’s instruction to make way for a new set of priests to come in to take over the church administration there.
“The Spiritans claimed that Archbishop Heerey gave the parish to them in 1967. That was under the 1917 Code but Canon 6 of 1983 Code abrogated 1917 Code unless such matters were renewed in 1983 Code but there is no evidence that such happened. Thirdly, the 1983 Code abolished making a moral person now juridic person a pastor. Now to be appointed a pastor, the person must be a physical person and be in priesthood, ” the Nnewi Diocese said.