Nigerian priests threatened 
with suspension by Vatican

Nigerian priests threatened 
with suspension by Vatican Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke (centre)
The Pope has ordered priests in Nigeria to accept the appointment of a new bishop or they will be suspended.

Pope Francis has given priests 30 days to send letters promising obedience to him. Anyone who doesn’t will lose their current office.

Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke was appointed Bishop of Ahiara by then-Pope Benedict  XVI in 2012. However it is believed that the majority of priests protested his appointment as Bishop Okpaleke was not a local priest, making it difficult for him to take control of the diocese.

After a meeting with Nigerian Church leaders on the issue the Vatican last week described the situation in the diocese as “unacceptable”.

“The Holy Father, after a careful evaluation, spoke of the unacceptable situation in Ahiara and reserved the right to take appropriate measures,” the Vatican said.

It was written on the blog of Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference, that Pope Francis had considered “supressing the diocese”.

However he decided against it as the Church “is a mother and cannot abandon her many children”.

Each priest’s letter, he said, “must clearly manifest total obedience to the Pope” and indicate a willingness “to accept the bishop whom the Pope sends and has appointed”.

The letters must be sent within 30 days, with a deadline of July 9, and it applies to priests residing in Nigeria or abroad.

When Bishop Okpaleke was appointed to the diocese, the announcement was met by protests and petitions calling for the appointment of a bishop from among the local clergy. Nevertheless, he was ordained a bishop in May 2013, however the ordination didn’t take place in the Ahiara diocese, but at a seminary in the Archdiocese of Owerri.

The controversial bishop met the Pope last week, and was joined in Rome by Nigerian bishops and several priests.