Pope Francis has warned the Nigerian Diocese of Ahiara that if they do not accept their bishop, they will be suspended a divinis.
The Holy Father stressed this during his audience with members of the diocese in the Vatican on June 8.
When Pope Benedict XVI appointed Msgr. Peter Ebere Okpaleke as the diocese’ bishop in 2012, lay people and priests of the diocese rejected their new bishop because, unlike his predecessor, Msgr. Victor Chikwe, part of the Mbaise ethnic group, which makes up the majority of the diocese, he comes from the Ibero ethnic group, which makes up the majority in southeast Nigeria. In 2013, Cardinal Onaiyekan was appointed Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara.
In Pope Francis’ remarks, he noted that their meeting together was “a consolation” because he is “deeply saddened by the events of the Church in Ahiara.”
“I know very well the events that have been dragging on for years,” he said, stressing, “and I am thankful for the attitude of great patience of the Bishop, indeed the holy patience demonstrated by him.
“I listened and reflected much, even about the possibility of suppressing the diocese, but then I thought that the Church is a mother and cannot abandon her many children.”
Then the Holy Father made a request.
“Therefore,” he said, “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. We all must share this common sorrow.”
“In the letter, one must clearly manifest total obedience to the Pope, and whoever writes must be willing to accept the Bishop whom the Pope sends and has appointed.”
The letter, Francis explained, must be sent within 30 days, from today to July 9th, 2017.
“Whoever does not do this,” the Pope warned, “will be ipso facto suspended a divinis and will lose his current office.”
“This seems very hard, but why must the Pope do this? Because the people of God are scandalized,” the Pope said. [emphasis added] Source – Zenit
Well, call me inattentive if you like, but this is one “scandal” that has passed me by, big time. So, my attention has been well and truly grabbed, in the realisation that an entire diocese of priests is threatened with suspension under the above circumstances. Whatever happened to management skills? Other priests – causing all sorts of appalling scandals – are left to get on with scandalising us to death, without any hint of a rebuke, let alone suspension.
I must hastily add that I know nothing of African Church politics or ethnic sensitivities, but on the surface – in light of the clergy scandals afflicting the Church here -in the UK, it seems a tad over the top to demand total obedience to the Pope (i.e. accept your bishop unquestioningly) or be suspended from exercising your ministry while we have clergy living in openly scandalous circumstances, or which at least appear to be so (see front page of our January edition for a recent example) who suffer no disciplinary consequences whatsoever.
Help me out here. What is going on?