. . . Gives Answers to Critical Issues
. . . Okpaleke to be installed, April 29
By Uchechukwu Enem
The Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most. Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, has expressed joy over the creation of Ekwulobia Diocese after over 10 years since the journey to the creation of the Diocese began. He revealed that the journey to the creation of Ekwulobia Diocese was not an easy task because of the processes involved.
The bishop cleared the fears and doubts of people who thought that efforts were not made for the creation of Ekwulobia Diocese. In an interview with Fides, the bishop revealed how unsuccessfully he applied many times for the creation of both Adazi and Ekwulobia Dioceses which eventually led him to apply for an Auxiliary Bishop that was approved.
He said that the journey to the creation of Ekwulobia Diocese was challenging, considering the geographical size of Awka Diocese on the map when compared to other larger states in the Northern Region of Nigeria that had only one Diocese.
The Bishop assured the people of God that Bishop Okpaleke was a wonderful material for the Church.
He disclosed that 29th April had been fixed for Bishop Okpaleke’s installation and taking over of possession of Ekwulobia Diocese, even as he revealed how demanding the position of a Bishop was in an Africa setting. He added that the people of God should cooperate with the new bishop in building the Catholic faith.
‘The work of a bishop in the Africa setting is very demanding. In overseas, people hardly write to their bishops to be posted to Nigeria but in Nigeria it is not the same because there are series of letters that are expected to be written by me to ensure the priests’ request to study or work abroad is granted. In the abroad setting, a secretary or a lay person could write such letters; but in the Africa setting, those letters are written by the Bishop and are followed up by his office.
‘When I was in Lecce Diocese, Italy, I remember that the Bishop of the Diocese was not present at the burial of the Mother to the Vicar General and for them it was not a problem; but in the Africa setting, it looks unfair when the Bishop doesn’t attend the burial of the mother to a priest or a religious,’ he added.
Having enjoyed the services of three bishops, Bishop Ezeokafor assured the people of God that the presence of Bishop Okpaleke in Ekwulobia Diocese was a beautiful blessing to the people of God, even as he promised his 100 percent support to see that the baby diocese reached its peak.
‘Bishop Okpaleke is a very intelligent and gifted material from Awka Diocese, even though Ahiara Diocese seemed not to understand what they missed from him. Bishop Okpaleke is from Amesi in Ekwulobia Diocese and so it would be much easier for him to have a decision of people he will work with. He is a young bishop with vast experience. I am sure he would have a well-organized and promising people to work with. I want him to succeed because we have a common heritage. I support him 100 percentage. If he has a good working relationship with the lay faithful, I am sure he will do well,’ Bishop Ezeokafor stated.
The bishop who showed so much joy at the creation of the diocese, said he now had lesser jurisdiction to fully concentrate on. When asked about Peter University, he said the university was a joint effort of both Awka and Ekwulobia Dioceses. The bishop added that the three regions of Ekwulobia are Achina, Akpu and Ekwulobia, while Adazi, Nimo and Awka Regions are for Awka Diocese.
‘The Church does not work with local government demarcations, rather we work with regions.
For example, Uguwoba is in Enugu State but it is under Awka Diocese,’ the bishop explained.
He noted that all the priests serving in the diocesan arrangement would remain in their places and that those who were in establishments outside the diocese like Bigard, Tansi, Ikot Ekpene Seminaries would belong to their diocese of origin. The bishop added that those who are in the teaching profession would retain their diocese of origin just as those in overseas would also belong to their diocese of origin.
He noted that the arrangements did not however rule out the possibility of change; but that those changes would be subjected to the agreements between the person and their bishop.
‘The changes will be like a form of incardination but in this case, there will be no process of writing letters.
‘After the installation of the bishop on 29th April, we will have new chairmen to all the statutory bodies and Directors of all the Departments. There was a time Onitsha Archdiocese was having its Spiritual Year in Awka Diocese. We are not expecting Ekwulobia Diocese to have one now but gradually crawl till they are able to stand firm.
‘Creating of the new Diocese is not intended to divide the people; but to make the apostolate easier for administration. We are still one and we must collaborate so that we can make the young diocese stand. It should be our collective desire to aim at growth because the end point is for our salvation,’ Bishop Ezeokafor emphasized.