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Recently and ongoing, Ahiara, Mbaise of Imo State has become the waves in the news as both priests and adherents protest what they consider to be a papal oversight in their home churches. It’s to be recalled that most of the decay we experience in Christianity in the name of Pentecostalism all over Nigeria today is as a result of fallout between the Holy See and the early Christian world. It started with muffled opinions and voices and grew to gatherings of adherents with anti-Roman-Catholic-mindedness. Then it became a world of Protestants and Pentecostals. The high-handedness of Rome in handling the misunderstanding within the early church sowed the seed of further diverging views even when the Holy Spirit keeps calling us to converge to God. Then, many faithful died for what they believed; today many still die in their hearts. When shall we understand that love remains the only power which holds us all in God?

 

During the recent ordination of Monsignor Peter Okpalaeke who was slated for the office of the bishop of Ahiara Diocese, Bishop Ugorji delivered a sermon from which I take out this exceptional excerpt:

 

“Rudely demanding for front office jobs in God’s vineyard is disrespectful to the owner of the vineyard.  The Pope is only a foreman in God’s vineyard. He takes instructions from the boss. When you disrespect the Pope, you disrespect his boss and that is what these Mbaise Priests have done in demanding for front office jobs. In due time, he will pick as he sees fit.” – Bishop Ugorji

According to available data, the newly-ordained bishop is from Ontisha Province. And ex-seminarian of the Vatican City claims that Cardinal Arinze brought nepotism to the Igbo catholic community. FURTHER, Okoro said, “He (Arinze) wants to use his power to put his people everywhere in the church. Awka has 180 priests, 5 bishops and one Cardinal, while Mbaise has 750 priests and no bishop. Possibly, the Ahiara parishioners could neither understand any spiritual rationale in the continued exclusion of their priests from bishop-hood even when statistics shows that their commitment, exemplified by their mass sacrifice to catholic celibacy, is second to none, nor could they stomach the taxation without representation which the neglect seems to insinuate.  Maybe Bishop Ugorji and his Pope (assuming he was speaking on behalf of the Pope) should explain to us all if it’s better to settle misunderstandings in the church as the twelve apostles did when the Hellenistic Jews complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food Acts 6:1-4 (), or to take the stand of our today’s Pentecostals in claiming that God is a key in their hands alone with which they decide who, what and where to open or shut, contrary to Biblical expressions. Now, I know that majority may assume the overused false stand that the Pope, Bishops and priests have the final say in their spiritual affairs, but supposing you find the Bible to differ in this rule which has divided the church more than it united us, would you stand out speak and act on the truth you now believe, seeing that it’s only with God can one or many be truly said to be in majority?

 

As this anomaly unfolds, one may even be tempted to wonder if Mbaise people should not have first looked at the so called ‘God’s ultimate authority on earth” and see the damage it’s done to the psyche of the entire Igbo race before they further campaign for a bishop from wherever. 750 priests! And they are not yet qualified for a single bishop? No! They should not question the Pope’s wisdom or even that of the bishops – including all the priests who defecate on God’s altar by abusing God’s children from the anus!  So they insist.

 

When they, like their ‘Pentecostal’ sisters, insist on total submission, they should ask themselves: do we totally submit to God ourselves? For all the years they have extorted the souls of the Igbo from the spirit of the land, the Igbo have gone from good to bad; and now the worse is unraveling. When they consider themselves as the final say, I pray them to remember that even God Himself, who is forever the beginning and the end of all that has life, has, often than not, reasoned with men and that, most times, men have won him over. It’s so because, above all else, He seeks fellowship; He yearns for our union of mutual understanding with Him. But no! The Peters and Paul of today would rather that nobody questions them, including when they sodomize your teenage sons and abuse your little daughters! Paul was a new comer in the circle of the apostles; he was not even a disciple. But he openly rebuked Peter, the so-called “Rock,” when he found out that Peter was being influenced by the very cunning and conniving spirit of the antichrist which has taken center stage in most of today’s Nigerian churches (Galatians 2:11-21). Peter took correction and, at one time, even testified that Brother Paul, the corrector, had a higher spiritual insight (2Peter 3:16). One, from today’s Catholic Church, would have expected Peter to bark at Paul and ask him to sit down or leave the church as Bishop Ugorji pontificated in his homily:  “If those disrespectful Priests so badly wish to be Bishops, we have well over 41,000 Christian denominations. There is room for more, each with their own Pope and they can rest assured that he who is not against the Church is with the Church but they need not be of the Church.”

 

If these 750 priests were traditional priests in one fold, Mbaise may have become our New Jerusalem, “The City of Peace.” The Roman Catholic Church, and indeed all these political organizations with Christianity caps, should stand up and tell the world what they have done for the Igbo, most of whose sheepish and unquestionable submissiveness had never been a problem whenever requests were made in God’s name. Should that surprise any? No! After all, about 99% of Igbo names derive life only when God becomes the alpha and the omega, the prefix and the suffix. Tell us, I pray thee, what good you have done to the land of the Igbos.

 

Not even the spirit of Christ resists our selfish prayers the way our religious leaders resist any truth which God has not revealed solely through them. But how can God reveal his mind to you and not to the poor little Joseph in the field (whose crime was that he obeyed his father who obeyed God and that he took food to his brothers in the field) when your self-importance would not even allow you to see that your love for your sheep has long been lacking in our midst?

 

What we are saying is this: Allow God to direct you and we will willingly follow you. God is neither partial nor is He seeking assurances of His Godness from man’s submission and worship. Until Vatican addresses the mistakes of child abuses in the church and until they remove biased commitment to brotherhood in the selection of popes and bishops, I dare say, the wishes of Bishop Ugorgi that the protesting Roman Catholics of Ahiara should become Ahiara Catholics may not be waited long for before it becomes hitherto concealed salvation.