Nigerian Prelate: If I were Ahiara-mbaise Priests



By: Msgr. Nathaniel Ndiokwere


For Nigerians, Igbos, and particularly Mbaise people interested in this bishopric saga which is covered by many news media all over the world today, I conclude my write up or contribution to the debate, which I deliberately decided to break up into two parts because of the length or volume of material, that is if you have been following the first part which was “If I were Bishop Okpalaeke”; “If I were the Pope”.

I must let my readers know that since the beginning of this ‘parlavar’ I have been in touch with some of the Mbaise people who are my friends and even classmates. I am not from Mbaise. I am from Orlu and Orlu diocesan priest. I feel concerned about what is happening in this part of Igbo Church. We priests are not saints in any way. Not only in Nigeria or Africa, but all over the world, you find ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’. In public matters, some are quiet, silent; others can be raucous, noisy, flamboyant; while many more can be outspoken and cling to the words of the scriptures, damn the consequences, “Only the truth can make the people free.” I know where I belong. 


Nothing is yet ‘too late’. We must stop immediately any further media responses or letters to the Holy See. The leadership of the presbyterium, namely that of the so-called ‘dissident’ group must be disbanded or suspended or reorganized. Those leaders whose signatures had been appearing on official documents must step aside and new ‘transitional committee’ elected. Listen! NNAMDI KANU cannot lead or represent BIAFRA anymore. He cannot hold any dialogue with the federal government . You surely know why. Biafra needs a new leadership. 


As Mbaise priest, ordained before 1987, I know fully well that our seniors and some Mbaise lay people, had right from Bishop Mark Unegbu’s time, agitated for, demanded, requested for a bishop, who must be one of their sons – “Son of the soil”. They made it clear to Rome in writing. And after very careful consideration Rome agreed, granted their request, in order for peace to reign. Vatican or Roman diplomacy was at work those days . Men, human beings, those days interfered little in the WORKS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. So at the end of the installation of the first bishop of AHIARA diocese, Most Rev. Victor CHIKWE, the Nuncio made the following announcement which stunned everybody. It was hot afternoon, the mass was celebrated under series of canopies. I was there and surely hundreds of priests, religious and lay people. 

The Nuncio’s Announcement:

“Thank you everybody. I hope you are now happy Mbaise people. We have granted your request and given you, your own son of the soil. I hope there will be peace now and everybody is happy with you own son of the soil Thank you.” 

There was no applause, no joyful excitement. Everywhere was quiet. I am 100% sure I quoted the nuncio well. A pity a video recording of that installation ceremony many not be available. The Italian nuncio spoke in English tainted with Italian accent. 

So, what the present set of Mbaise priests are doing, 30 years after the installation of their first indigenous bishop looks like a “follow-up”, a “tradition”, which may not work any more in present circumstances. I personally communicated this information to the administrator of AHIARA diocese, His Eminence John Anaiykan, two years ago, as what I thought could help to resolve the impasse. 

As a priest of the diocese I will wonder why the majority of Mbaise priests CONSULTORS rejected their own brothers, nominated as possible bishopric candidates for AHIARA? Some of the priests wrote malicious petitions disqualifying their own brothers ! Then Rome had no option than bringing in an ‘external candidate’, ‘non-son-of-the-soil’. By our action we have put ourselves into trouble and have no grounds whatsoever rejecting any bishop given to Mbaise. Period. But internally I know the priests behind the trouble in Mbaise. Not the leaders we see their signatures or hear their voices . There are some of them who are behind the mayhem in Mbaise. If I mention their names there will be a stampede! These should not have been ordained priests. Hopefully, Rome will defrock them later! 

If I were a priest of AHIARA I will tell my colleagues that we have lost the case and must accept the verdict of the Roman Pontiff. The last appeal we can make or add to our letter is to ask the Pope to accept a collective letter of forgiveness. Those who may not like to append their signature are free to go their way, laicize or found their new Pentecostal churches. 


The lay faithful of Mbaise are giving the impression that their priests have misled them, that they never cared about the type of bishop given to them, his color, language or place of origin. Wow! The world is also getting the impression that at least 90% of Mbaise faithful are against the rejection of Bishop Okpalaeke. 

My question: Where were your intelligentsia and faithful Catholics all the while? Why couldn’t you organize counter-protests, denouncing the rebel priests, paying allegiance to the Pope and Bishop he appointed as shepherd? 

How many lay Mbaise people came out on the social media campaigning for the restoration of peace in the diocese? The lay Mbaise sons that showed up were the most vicious rebels who confronted the Pope and all his representatives in the saga, messed up everything, in fact poured more fuel into the fire at each stage! Where are those rebels now at this precarious situation and stage we find ourselves? 


Now the Pope has given the order and conditions for the restoration of peace in Mbaise Church. The Vatican Correspondent of the EWTN World News Service commenting on the punishment given to AHIARA-Mbaise priests, (left and right, living at home and abroad, including those in religious congregations,) sadly observed that the punishment, in the history of the Catholic Church, is the most unpleasant, severe, harsh, difficult to accept, they have witnessed. The correspondent said she could not imagine what Promised the Holy Father to issue such statements! There we are! Who is kidding you! 

If I were the lay faithful, now is the time for peaceful marches and prayer procession in support of the Holy Father and the Bishop. If you fail, and the pope removes from your priests the power to administer the sacraments, then your eyes will open. Time for protests are gone. Both priests and the lay faithful of Mbaise must know that the Pope’ word now is final. Peace of the Lord be with you!

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