Monday, May 06, 2024

After six (!) years of waiting: Diocese finally has a new bishop

A good six years after the resignation of a bishop in an African diocese, Pope Francis has appointed a new leader for the diocese. 

He appointed the former auxiliary bishop Simeon Okezuo Nwobi (64) as the new bishop of Ahiara in Nigeria, as announced by the Vatican press office on Friday. 

Nwobi's predecessor, Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke (61), resigned in February 2018 after years of controversy.

Okpaleke was appointed Bishop of Ahiara by Pope Benedict XVI in December 2012. 

However, he was never able to take possession of his episcopal see due to criticism of his person

One of the main accusations from the diocese was that Okpaleke did not belong to the Mbaise ethnic group, which made up the majority, but to the Igbo group. He therefore did not fit into the diocese.

Pope Francis intervened in the conflict in the summer of 2017. He demanded a written declaration of loyalty from around 70 priests in the diocese within 30 days. Anyone refusing to do so would be suspended from ministry. 

Although most of the priests then pledged their obedience, some did not want to co-operate with their bishop due to the discord in the diocese. 

Okpaleke finally resigned. Since then, Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji (72) has led the diocese of Ahiara on an interim basis as Apostolic Administrator. 

He has also been Archbishop of Owerri in Nigeria since March 2022. 

Bishop Nwobi, who has now been appointed, comes from the diocese of Ahiara. 

The Claretian priest has been working there as an auxiliary bishop since last December.