- Dec 8, 2019
While one could see Monday’s resignation of an embattled Nigerian bishop as the pope blinking, it may also be an act of mercy by the pope and humility by the bishop.
An embattled bishop who has not been able to set foot in his diocese in Nigeria for over five years has resigned his position, saying it is “no longer beneficial to the Church” for him to hold his position, just over eight months after Pope Francis threatened to suspend any priest who refused to accept him.
One Nigerian bishop has broken ranks, publicly calling on Pope Francis to rethink his decision to back Pope Benedict’s choice as the new bishop of a diocese from outside the dominant group.
Over four months after Pope Francis demanded that the priests of the Nigerian Diocese of Ahiara accept the 2012 appointment of Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, the bishop still has not stepped foot in his diocese. The case reflects the ethnic tensions affecting the Church in southern Nigeria, and a resolution to the crisis might require a new approach from the Vatican.
In an extremely complicated dispute in the Nigerian Diocese of Ahaira, even a papal threat to suspend every last priest there doesn’t seem to have stopped the infighting over the controversial appointment of a new bishop five years ago. The two sides remain bitterly divided, accusing one another of being “satanic” and “corrupt,” and right now it’s not even clear the new bishop can set foot in the diocese.
Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference, is urging priests in his country’s Ahaira diocese to accept a bishop appointed by Benedict XVI and confirmed by Francis, even though he comes from outside the diocese’s majority ethnic and linguistic group. While some priests say they’re ready to comply with whatever the pope decides, that doesn’t mean the underlying grievances are resolved.