Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the Governor of Imo State, has called on priests and Catholic lay faithful of Ahiara Diocese to make Mbaise a land and symbol of peace for other people to emulate. The governor gave the admonition during a meeting with representatives of priests and the lay faithful of the Diocese, held recently at the Mater Dei Cathedral, Ahiara, Imo State.
According to Governor Okorocha peace is very expensive.
“Pursue peace and walk towards peace because peace is a very, very expensive commodity, but there can be no peace without justice.” He said that his meeting with priests had been about how to resolve the crisis in the Diocese amicably.
Governor Okorocha, a Catholic, told priests and the lay faithful of Ahiara Diocese that the decision of the Pope was binding on them and regretted that priests were at the forefront of the agitation. He added that the Church would become an object of mockery if the crisis were to end the way priests and laity in the Diocese want it to end.
Expressing the need for the faithful of the Diocese to embrace peace, the state governor remarked, “We are talking about Ahiara Diocese, IPOB, Boko Haram, Kidnappings, Niger Delta, etc. The one (crisis) that touches me so much is the crisis of Ahiara Diocese because this touches the fabric of our faith. First, we are Christians, and you must understand that Christianity is a very difficult religion because Christianity doesn’t preach comfort for us rather, (our) ability to accept persecution. Today, we have a challenge that whatever has made Ahiara the centre of crisis, we must change it for better,” the local government leader admonished.
He decried the “Declaration of Biafran War, killing of a steward, Ahiara Now' and the Diocesan agitation spanning six years and attracting global focus. We must change the story of Ahiara. I want to state here categorically that since this crisis, I have been listening patiently and watching. But I had wished that my advice was taken ab-initio and ipso-facto,” said Governor Okorocha
Governor Okorocha added, “If Mbaise must be in the news, it must be in the news for the right reasons. This is because Mbaise is the largest single ethnic group in the South-East (of Nigeria) and there is no place you will go to in this world, without having a Mbaise person, doing (very) well in that region. Mbaise contributes substantially to what makes Imo (state) tick,” he said.
At the end of the meeting, Rev. Fr Dr Joseph Ezeji gave a vote of thanks, pledging allegiance to the papacy; to abide by the decision of the Pope and confirming that all Mbaise priests had written their letters of apology to the Pope. He closed by stating the concerns of Ahiara Diocese.
Since 2012, the clergy and laity of the Diocese of Ahiara have refused to accept Bishop Peter Okpalaeke appointed as their Ordinary by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
(Catholic News Service of Nigeria)