By Jude Atupulazi
Valentine Ozigbo, a Nigerian business mogul, has issued a statement from the Vatican in Rome, congratulating His Eminence, Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke, who His Holiness Pope Francis, created at the consistory held on Saturday, August 27, 2022, at the iconic St. Peter’s Basilica.
Cardinal Okpaleke, the Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese and an indigene of Amesi in Anambra State, is one of nineteen newly created cardinals and one of two from Africa. He is a close friend and former teacher to Mr Ozigbo, the immediate past President and Group CEO of Transcorp Plc and a 2021 Anambra Governorship Candidate.
‘What a joyful experience to witness the creation of Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke by His Holiness, Pope Francis, today at St. Peter’s Basilica.
‘I celebrate with the Catholic faithful worldwide on this special occasion and congratulate my elder brother, His Eminence, Cardinal Okpaleke, the Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese, on this elevation of service.
‘His Eminence is an embodiment of grace, humility and wisdom, and this elevation to a Prince of the Universal Church comes precisely 30 years of his priestly ordination.
‘I honour what His Eminence represents, particularly for us in Amesi and Ndi Anambra. We are grateful to the Almighty for keeping him and granting us the grace to witness this solemn ceremony. May God Almighty take the glory,’ Ozigbo prayed.
Ozigbo will be the chairman of the grand reception to receive at home the new cardinal at the Ekwulobia Diocese on September 8, 2022.
Other notable Nigerians who witnessed the consistory included Mr Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party; Prof Charles Soludo, the Governor of Anambra State, and his wife, Nonye Soludo; His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Archbishop emeritus of Abuja; His Grace, Most Rev Dr Valerian Okeke, the Metropolitan See of Onitsha; Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, the senator representing Anambra South; Senator Victor Umeh, the Labour Party’s senatorial candidate for Anambra Central; Nonso Okpala, MD/CEO of VFD Group; Ichie Sunday Ezeobiora; Chief Sir Joseph Ezeokafor of Jezco Group; Senator Margaret Okadigbo, the Chairman of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); Ada Umeorji, the Deputy Managing Director of Zenith Bank; Prof Charles Esimone, the Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University; Rt. Hon Uchenna Okafor, Speaker Anambra House of Assembly; Chief Ikenna Okafor; Mr Robert Umeozulu; Mrs Obby Okwubanego; Ozonkpu Victor Oye, Chairman of APGA; Hon Chris Azubuogu; Prof Joseph Ahaneku, former VC of Unizik, and many others.
Other men of God at the event were His Grace, Archbishop Jude Okolo, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Czech Republic; His Lordship, Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor of Awka Diocese; His Lordship, Bishop Jonas Benson of Nnewi Diocese, His Lordship, Bishop Martin Uzoukwu of Minna Diocese; His Lordship, Bishop Anselm Umoren of Abuja Archdiocese; and many more.
After the ceremony, His Holiness, Pope Francis, led the new cardinals on a courtesy visit to Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery. As the Vatican News Agency reported, Pope Francis greeted Benedict XVI with great affection and made the cross on his forehead sign of the brief emotional meeting. Then, the new cardinals introduced themselves one by one to exchange brief messages.