Following the heavy fights that broke out between three pro- and anti- Bishop Okalaeke priests in St. Brigid’s Catholic Parish, Nnarambia, Mbaise in the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara Mbaise in Imo State, one of the priests involved in the fracas and parish priest of the parish, Rev. Fr. Marcelinus Nweke has warned of an impending blood bath if the pro- Okpalaeke priests do not stop imposing themselves on others.
The priests— Rev. Fr. Januarius Chima Ahaneku (pro- Bishop Okpalaeke), and Rev. Fr. Marcelinus Nweke and his assistant, Rev. Fr. Chamberline Irozuru(anti-Bishop Okalaeke)— according to reports, had practically soaked themselves in their own blood and vandalizing several properties of the parish penultimate Thursdaynight when Fr. Ahaneku, posted to the parish, came to take over, but the out-going priests, Frs. Nweke and Irozuru, resisted him.
In the ensuing melee, the two groups, who were reportedly with dozens of thugs, descended on each other and suddenly, arms and ammunitions flew from nowhere and they were severely brutalized while Fr. Ahaneku and his boys were arrested by the police.
But, in his reactions published in the diocesan newspaper, The Guide, last Sunday, one of the priests involved in the fight, and parish priest of St. Brigid’s Parish, Fr. Nweke accused the Vicar- General of the diocese, Rev. Fr. Clement Ebii of being behind the simmering crisis by posting a priest to take over from him without a due process and earlier information.
He called on the vicar-general to listen to the voice of reason before it was too late.
“If you refuse to listen to this last voice of God, you will live to regret the blood that will flow out of the spiral of violence hanging in the clouds!”, Fr. Nweke was quoted as saying as addressing the vicar general.
The priest called on the pro-Okpalaeke priests to renounce their stance now if not, none of them especially Fr. Ahaneku would be accepted in any Catholic parish in Mbaise, adding that “a part can never be greater than a whole”.
He insisted that the anti-Bishop Okpalaeke priests were fighting a just cause because according to him, “a church that works against the legitimate aspiration of its people is nearing its spiritual death”.
247ureports.com learnt that the reason for the fight between the priests was because of the suspicion the majority of the anti- Bishop Okpalaeke had that the few pro- Okpalaeke priests, who had been put in charge of the diocese by the Apostolic Administrator, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, were planning ways of installing the impeded bishop and that one of the ways with which to achieve their plan, it was learnt, was the posting of the pro-Okpalaeke priests to rich parishes like St. Brigid’s.
It will be recalled that last July, more than 200 priests from the diocese trooped out to protest the appointment of Rev. Fr. Clement Ebii (who they described as pro-Okpalaeke priest) as the Vicar General of the Diocese by the Apostolic Administrator, John Cardinal Onaiyekan.
The priests also sponsored the Catholic Women Organisation to embark on another round of demonstration to force Cardinal Onaiyekan to withdraw that appointment, saying the appointment of Fr. Ebii was part of the “desperate attempts of Cardinal Onaiyekan to further cause the internal crisis in the diocese”.
The appointment of Fr. Ebii as Vicar- General followed the resignation of Rev. Fr. Professor Louis Asiegbu last April, whose advice that the pro-Bishop Okpalaeke priests should not be given viable parishes(as part of their punishment), was ignored by Cardinal Onaiyekan, who instead, posted one of the priests, Fr. Chima Ahaneku to St. Patrick’s Parish Umuokrika Ekwereazu.
While some of the protesting priests, who demonstrated at the Mater Ecclesiae Cathedral, Ahiara Mbaise, accused Onaiyekan of trying to use the appointment of Fr. Ebii to bring back the “rejected” Bishop Okpalaeke, others accused Fr. Ebii of scheming to become the new bishop of the diocese.
It would be recalled that Rt. Rev. Peter Okpalaeke was ordained bishop in 2012 and was posted to the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara. But the majority of the priests and the laity from the diocese rejected his posting saying he is not an indigene of Mbaise.
The priests cited marginalization as their reason, adding that Ahiara Diocese had over 1000 indigenous priests, most of who, they said, were more qualified to be bishops.