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Monday, July 10, 2017

Ahiara crisis: Church is not a democracy

What is currently happening in Ahiara diocese is an aberration. It is not in the nature of true Catholics to disobey the choice of a Bishop appointed by the Pope who is the Head of the Church on earth, the Supreme Pontiff.

Those fueling the crisis are either feigning ignorance of the rules guiding the Church or are just allowing human ego to take the better part of them. You may wonder why I say this. I will explain: The second Vatican council (1962–1965), made it explicitly clear that the right of nominating and appointing bishops belongs per se exclusively to the competent ecclesiastical authority. The bulk stops on the table of the Pope and when the Pope speaks, the Church has spoken.

The Church is one, universal. There is no law that states that a bishop must come from a specific tribe or town. There have been many instances of bishops appointed to head places other than their own diocese. Starting from the days of foreign bishops like Heerey, O’Rourke, Leo Taylor, to when we began to have indigenous priests as Bishops, the issue of tribe really never matters.

So many Bishops had been transferred from one place to another without fuse. Remember that the Late Dominic Ekandem, though hailed from Calabar, was transferred to Abuja. John Cardinal Onaiyekan is from Kabba in Kogi State, yet he is now in Abuja. Bishop Lucius Ugorji is from Naze in Imo State, but he is in Umuahia. Should the natives of these places carry placards? No.

The Church is one. Yes in few instances there have been minor agitations by some who felt that the Bishop should be from their land, but the Church has always made it clear that we are all one in Christ. In the end they have all come to terms that the Church is not a democracy but hierarchical. In Ireland for instance, the papal envoy there is an Ibo man. It does not really matter where you come from, as long as the Holy Spirit finds you suitable.

Let me state here that God forbids disobedience in any form. One of the three vows taken by priests and religious during their ordination is that of obedience to their superiors. Priests also should serve as good examples to the laity. A situation where priests appear to be disobeying the same Church they swear to obey and protect is not acceptable.

But again, this is the human element at work. Jesus assured us that the gate of hell would never prevail against the Church. So, this too shall pass away. The Pope has given the priests of Ahiara ample time to make amends. Please note that it is not all the priests that are against Bishop Okpaleke, just a section.

But I believe that they will all come to terms with the fact that the will of God would prevail at the end of the day. It will surely be a win-win situation for everyone. Our prayer is that God will send the spirit of peace, humility, obedience and unity into the hearts of the aggrieved, so that, like Christ always willed, we shall all continue to be one. This should be our collective prayers.

*Contributed by Monsignor Gabriel Osu, who is the Director, Social Communication, Catholic Church of Lagos Diocese.


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