Pope Francis has laid down an ultimatum to defiant Nigerian priests in the Nigerian Diocese of Ahiara, Imo state that they will lose their jobs if they don’t obey him and their bishop.
The catholicherald.co.uk reports that clergy in Nigerian diocese must write to Holy Father asking for forgiveness by July 9.
The report stated that Pope Francis gave the priests in the Nigerian Diocese of Ahiara 30 days to write a letter promising obedience to him and accepting the bishop appointed for their diocese.
Priests who do not write the letter will be suspended, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
The papal text in English was posted on the blog of Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference, and Fides posted it in Italian.
The Vatican press office could not immediately confirm its authenticity, although Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, who also was present, told the Catholic News Service that they were the remarks of the Pope.
A day earlier, Nigerian Church leaders met Pope Francis to discuss the situation of Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, who was appointed Bishop of Ahiara by then-Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, but who has been unable to take control of the diocese because of protests, apparently by the majority of priests.
The Vatican issued only a short communiqué on the meeting with the Pope, describing the situation in the diocese as �unacceptable.”
The protests were motivated by the fact that Bishop Okpaleke is not a local priest.
�The Holy Father, after a careful evaluation, spoke of the unacceptable situation in Ahiara and reserved the right to take appropriate measures,” the Vatican said.
According to the Pope’s remarks posted by Archbishop Kaigama, Pope Francis said,
�I think that, in this case, we are not dealing with tribalism, but with an attempted taking of the vineyard of the Lord.”
The Pope also referred to �the parable of the murderous tenants” in Matthew 21:33-44.
�Whoever was opposed to Bishop Okpaleke taking possession of the diocese wants to destroy the Church. This is forbidden,” the Pope said.
Francis said he even had considered �suppressing the diocese, but then I thought that the Church is a mother and cannot abandon her many children.”
Instead, he said, every priest of the diocese, whether residing in Nigeria or abroad, must write a letter to him asking for forgiveness because �we all must share this common sorrow”.
Each priest’s letter, he said, �must clearly manifest total obedience to the Pope” and indicate a willingness �to accept the bishop whom the Pope sends and has appointed”
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