Cardinal Okpaleke Takes Canonical Possession of Church of Martyrs of Uganda, Rome

…Bishop Ezeokafor Hails Development

The Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese and a Prince of the Universal Church, His Eminence Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke has taken Canonical Possession of the Church Of Martyrs of Uganda, Rome. The special ceremony took place on Sunday February 5th, 2023 in a Concelebrated Eucharistic Holy Mass led by Cardinal Okpaleke, alongside other priests from Nigeria and Rome.

It will be recalled that the Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese was on Sunday, May 29th, 2022, raised to the prestigious Order of the Cardinalate by Pope Francis, alongside twenty others with the Consistory coming up later in August 27th, 2022, at St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome, write Jude Atupulazi and Abuchi Onwumelu.

This is even as the Bishop of Awka Catholic Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, has hailed the development and congratulated the Cardinal. Bishop Ezeokafor called for continued prayers and support, noting that he needed to be supported to enable him to succeed in his service to God and humanity.

Meanwhile, according to the Church’s tradition, and as a sign of his closeness to the Pope, exercising pastoral collaboration with the Pontiff – the head of the Catholic Church, Cardinal priests, that is Diocesan Bishops who are Cardinals, are assigned a particular Church within the Diocese of Rome as their proper pastors. They are equally expected to attend all major functions done in the church and officiate in them as soon as they come up.

One major function and which is critical is that canonical possession of the parish should be done first and this confers legitimacy to the priest (in this instance the Cardinal) as the proper pastor of the parish with full rights and privileges. A priest however is also appointed to work in the Church as an administrator who does the day to day pastoral work in the parish and reporting to the proper pastor.

The Bishop of Ekwulobia, while taking possession of the parish, expressed gladness and gratitude to God for what he described as such a rare opportunity, and called on the parishioners to be alive to their responsibilities as true and sincere Christians. He equally called on them to continue to pray for him to be a true witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in words and deeds at all times.

Taking into consideration, the architectural structure of the Church, the name of His Eminence Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke was written in the Church as its proper pastor during the ceremony.

Recall that the Martyrs of Uganda from which the Church in Rome derived its name and is dedicated to, was led by Charles Lwanga and his twenty-one companions. These are Catholics. There are however twenty-three Anglican Christians who suffered same martyrdom.

This was under the reign of King Mwanga of Uganda, who mostly being a serial pedophile, wanted to indulge in immoral obscenity with them which however was stoutly resisted and who in anger sentenced them to death, mainly by installment between the year 31st January 1885 and 27th January, 1887. The youngest of them being Kizito, aged 14 years (1872-3rd June, 1886).

He was said to have been thrown into a boiling cauldron and was singing and thanking God for the gift of martyrdom till he breathed his last. Others were executed due to their refusal to deny their faith in Jesus Christ. In October 18th, 1964, Pope Paul V1 canonized them (Catholics) saints for dying for their faith.

Meanwhile, while congratulating the Cardinal, Bishop Ezeokafor thanked God for the Cardinal. ‘It is really something one can be proud of. We thank His Holiness, Pope Francis, for finding him worthy. We as a Diocese, are grateful to God for everything. On behalf of the priests, religious and laity of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, felicitate with our own. He is a bishop and now a Cardinal but he started from here. We’ll continue to support him,’ Bishop Ezeokafor said.