Letter to the priests of Ahiara Catholic Diocese By Ifeanyi Afuba

As the recent Easter tide ushers us unto a new plane of life, I deem it auspicious to
write you at this time on the stalled inauguration of Most Rev Peter Okpaleke as the Bishop of Ahiara Catholic Diocese.  I am directing my contribution on this subject to you rather than the laity of the diocese because I consider the body of priests the principal opponents of the Bishop’s appointment. While some sections of the laity leadership have at one point or the other also expressed strong reservations on the appointment, the fact remains that by virtue of their ministerial office and public esteem, the overwhelming majority of Catholics defer to priests.
Though a misnomer, the local expression, uka fada, stemmed from the perceived considerable power and responsibility of the priesthood. Bearing this in mind, it would be unhelpful to the resolution of the Ahiara bishopric question to continue to give the impression that the ‘activist’ priests involved in the matter are only giving vent to the resolution of the laity. You, our beloved priests, are central to restoration of the Church’s truncated mission in Ahiara Diocese.
It has not ceased to amaze some of us that in pushing your case that the choice of Bishop is made from the rank of indigenous priests of the Diocese, you have not placed your trust in God’s justice through prayers.  By resisting the appointment of Bishop Peter Okpaleke through denunciations, threats, shutdown of the Cathedral and other disagreeable physical means either directly or by condoning these measures, are you not relying on the power of man rather than God? Why would the efficacy of prayers that you preach so fervently in your homilies lose its potency in this particular instance?
Would the same almighty God that never changes; that parted the waters of the Red Sea; saved Susanna from the death sentence swindle of lusting men; and answered the distress call of countless Biblical figures ignore the prayer of his ‘wronged’ priests? What happened to the oft – quoted passage to seek and you will find; ask and you will receive; knock and it will be opened to you?  This question is made more pertinent by the fact of your privileged relationship to God: at the altar of consecration you ‘command’ Christ and He obeys you, transubstantiating bread and wine into His body and blood.
Could it be the case that the influence of worldly standards is one of the major impediments to the resumption of Ahiara bishopric? Geographical cum ethnic balancing would be politically correct policy in the secular estate but a misapplication in the Church.  The Church is a divine institution ordained by Christ with the mandate to preach the Good News to all nations, converting and baptizing in the name of the most holy Trinity. The Church and secular society profess contrasting civilizations.  They equally operate at differing realms.
Modern civilization is founded on reason alone whereas religion is built on both reason and faith.  It would be unrealistic to expect the Church governed by sacred laws of God and sacred traditions of over 2000 years to suddenly be bound by external social and civil conventions.  The appointment of a bishop is an internal affair of the Church; so why should this ecclesiastical function be subjected to the competitiveness and undue pressures that characterize secular offices?
The process of choosing a bishop in the Catholic Church is known to all priests as well as the process of seeking a review where mistakes are thought to have been made in any selection.  Where many of us disagree with you, beloved priests of the Catholic Church, is on confrontation against the Church’s hierarchy as a means of seeking perceived redress.  The authority of the Pope and the Bishops pronounced by Christ himself is a central pillar on which the tradition of the Catholic Church has run.
Neither the eleventh century schism between the East and West of the Church nor the Protestant Reformation was able to erode this institution.  It is therefore a matter of deep regret that the directives and pleas of The Holy Father, the Papal Nuncio to Nigeria, the Nigerian Conference of Bishops and the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan to you to respect the appointment of Bishop Peter Okpaleke has gone unheeded by many of you.
The issue is not about enforcement of rights; for every right is hinged on certain qualifications. But even if viewed as denial of participation in the selection process, is your present challenge the appropriate response? Are you satisfied with the unease that continues to hover over the diocese? Is your claim to recognition and status of greater importance than the health of Christ’s Church? On what ground can we shun the example of the Lord himself?
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant…he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross[Philippians 2:6].    And may the power of the Resurrection avail you the uncommon courage to break with whatever other considerations that have helped to fuel the crisis.
•Afuba is of St Kevin’s CatholicChurch, Nimo, Anambra State.                     

Letter to the priests of Ahiara Catholic Diocese By Ifeanyi Afuba Letter to the priests of Ahiara Catholic Diocese By Ifeanyi Afuba Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 Rating: 5

No comments: