That of Ahiara, in Nigeria, is not the only African diocese whose bishop, appointed by the pope, has been rejected by the local community because he belongs to an outside ethnicity. Less than a month ago Settimo Cielo documented a similar case in the diocese of Makeni, in Sierra Leone:
But for the diocese of Ahiara he did not delegate the solution of the conflict to anyone else. He himself came to grips with the question. He set up a debriefing in Rome with the parties in the dispute - the unwelcome bishop, Peter Okpaleke, a representation of the local clergy and faithful, the leaders of the Nigerian episcopate - in the presence of cardinal secretary of state Pietro Parolin and prefect of the congregation “de propaganda fide" Fernando Filoni. And he decided to take action himself, immediately after listening to them.
The meeting (see photo) was held at the Vatican on June 8. At the end of the meeting a statement was released with the announcement that the pope “has reserved it to himself to take the appropriate measures.”
In reality Francis has taken those measures, and how. Right away. Two days later, on June 10, the official transcription of the words he said at the end of the meeting was sent out.
Words that are very severe, scathing. Francis has ordered the rebel priests to surrender in writing, in a letter addressed to him personally. On penalty of suspension “a divinis.”
Here below, word for word, is what the pope ordered and threatened against the delegation of the diocese of Ahiara. An instructive example of the leadership style of the Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who evidently does not agree with those progressives who want bishops to be elected by the local communities.
* "A CHURCH LIKE A WIDOW"
I cordially greet the delegation and thank you for coming from Nigeria in a spirit of pilgrimage. For me, this meeting is a consolation because I am deeply saddened by the events of the Church in Ahiara.
In fact, the Church (and excuse the wording) is like a widow for having prevented the Bishop from coming to the Diocese. Many times I have thought about the parable of the murderous tenants, of which the Gospel speaks (cf. Mt 21:33-44), that want to grasp the inheritance. In this current situation the Diocese of Ahiara is without the bridegroom, has lost her fertility and cannot bear fruit. Whoever was opposed to Bishop Okpaleke taking possession of the Diocese wants to destroy the Church. This is forbidden; perhaps he does not realize it, but the Church is suffering as well as the People of God within her. The Pope cannot be indifferent.
I know very well the events that have been dragging on for years and I am thankful for the attitude of great patience of the Bishop, indeed the holy patience demonstrated by him. I listened and reflected much, even about the possibility of suppressing the Diocese, but then I thought that the Church is a mother and cannot abandon her many children. I feel great sorrow for those priests who are being manipulated even from abroad and from outside the Diocese.
I think that, in this case, we are not dealing with tribalism, but with an attempted taking of the vineyard of the Lord. The Church is a mother and whoever offends her commits a mortal sin, it’s very serious. However, I decided not to suppress the Diocese. Instead, I wish to give some indications that are to be communicated to all: first of all it must be said that the Pope is deeply saddened. Therefore, I ask that every priest or ecclesiastic incardinated in the Diocese of Ahiara, whether he resides there or works elsewhere, even abroad, write a letter addressed to me in which he asks for forgiveness; all must write individually and personally. We all must share this common sorrow.
In the letter 1. one must clearly manifest total obedience to the Pope, and 2. whoever writes must be willing to accept the Bishop whom the Pope sends and has appointed. 3. The letter must be sent within 30 days, from today to July 9th, 2017. Whoever does not do this will be ipso facto suspended a divinis and will lose his current office.
This seems very hard, but why must the Pope do this? Because the people of God are scandalized. Jesus reminds us that whoever causes scandal must suffer the consequences. Maybe someone has been manipulated without having full awareness of the wound inflicted upon the ecclesial communion.
To you brothers and sisters, I would like to express my sincere thanks for your presence; and also to Cardinal Onaiyekan for his patience and to Bishop Okpaleke, whose patience and humility I admire. Thank you all.
"L'Osservatore Romano" of June 11 has also revealed that “the cardinal prefect of the congregation for the evangelization of peoples, Fernando Filoni, has asked Francis - who has accepted - that at the conclusion of this affair the diocese of Ahiara, with its bishop, may make a pilgrimage to Rome and meet with the Pope.”