VATICAN CITY JUNE 13, 2017(CISA) – Pope Francis has called on the clergy of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara in Nigeria to write a letter asking for forgiveness within by July 9 for disobeying the Church.
The Bishop of Rome charged that “the Church is a mother and whoever offends her commits a mortal sin, it’s very serious,” reported CNA.
“I ask that every priest or ecclesiastic incardinated in the Diocese of Ahiara, whether he resides there or works elsewhere, even abroad, write a letter addressed to me in which he asks for forgiveness; all must write individually and personally,” Pope Francis said.
In their letters asking for forgiveness, the clergy of Ahiara must “clearly manifest total obedience to the Pope” and “be willing to accept the Bishop whom the Pope sends and has appointed.”
“Whoever does not do this will be ipso facto suspended a divinis and will lose his current office.”
Pope Francis was speaking June 8 when he met with a delegation from a Nigerian diocese which for the last four and a half years has refused to recognize the bishop who was appointed as its shepherd.
He demanded that the clerics of the Diocese of Ahiara accept the bishop appointment that has been made, or face suspension and loss of office.
Fr Peter Okpaleke was appointed Bishop of Ahiara in December 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. But the Ahiara diocese is dominated by the Mbaise ethnic group.
As an outsider from the nearby Diocese of Awka, Fr Okpaleke was rejected by much of Ahiara’s clergy and laity, who wanted one of their own to be appointed bishop over them.
The opponents of the appointment blocked access to Ahiara’s Cathedral.
Due to the strong opposition, Bishop Okpaleke was consecrated and installed outside his new diocese, at Seat of Wisdom Seminary in the Archdiocese of Owerri, May 21, 2013.
In July 2013, Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja was appointed apostolic administrator of Ahiara, but proved unable to solve the problem.