By Ikeugonna Eleke
Details have emerged as to why the Bishop of the Nnewi Catholic Diocese in Anambra State, Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye, withdrew the faculty of five Spiritan priests, otherwise called Holy Ghost priests.
Rev Fr Hyginus Aghaulor, former Director of Communications of the diocese who spoke to journalists, Tuesday, on behalf of Bishop Okoye, said the Spiritans had been frustrating the efforts of the Bishop in the creation of a new parish in Ihiala; a development, he said, led to the withdrawal of their faculty. This is as he clarified that no one was sacked as reported in many outlets.
Explaining further, Fr Aghaulor said the withdrawal of the faculty meant the priests would not be able to perform any duties within the diocese, and even when they did, such functions would be considered illicit.
‘If they baptize someone or conduct a wedding, the wedding and baptism are illicit. They cannot even celebrate Mass because their faculty has been withdrawn by the bishop,’ he said.
There had been a disagreement between five Holy Ghost priests and the bishop who had transferred them out of their parish, St Martin of Tours, Ihiala. Some media outfits had reported that the priests were sacked by the Bishop.
But Aghaulor, while speaking with journalists on Tuesday, said the priests were not sacked but were rather re-deployed. In Canon Law, which the Church operates, the Bishop has the powers to redeploy priests and that was what he did.
‘Besides, the Spiritans have been frustrating the efforts of the Bishop in the creation of a new parish in Ihiala. Our diocese has grown, with over 400 priests, and there is need for new deployments so the Bishop created a new parish and deployed some of our priests there and now transferred the Spiritans to the juniorate.
‘The Spiritans have refused to leave, trying to frustrate the genuine efforts of the bishop.
‘The Spiritans claim that Archbishop Heerey gave it (parish) to them in 1967. That was under the 1917 Code but Canon 6 of the 1983 Code abrogated the 1917 Code unless; such matters are renewed in the 1983 Code but there is no evidence that such happened. Thirdly, the 1983 Code abolished making a moral person now a juridic person, a pastor. Now to be appointed a pastor, the person must be a physical person and be in the priesthood,’ Fr Aghaulor said.
But in Tuesday’s briefing, Aghaulor said there was no question of the priests being sacked, but that the Bishop who is in control of the diocese decided to move them to new roles.
He regretted the disobedience of the priests, saying that such was not the training of priests.
‘There are consequences for disobedience and we all know it. The Spiritans have disobeyed the Bishop and it is not good. The Bishop is in charge of the diocese and has right to deploy people on the tasks he wishes them to undertake,’ Fr Aghaulor stated.
He likened it to the recent transfer of the spiritual director of Adoration Ministry Enugu, AMEN, Rev Fr Ejike Mbaka, who was recently moved to the monastery by the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese.