There has been jubilation among the teeming Catholic faithful in Anambra since news filtered in that Pope Francis has established the Diocese of Ekwulobia, and named Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke as its first bishop.
Okpaleke until this appointment was the Emeritus Bishop of Ahiara Diocese who resigned for peace to reign in the protracted crisis over the appointment of an indigenous bishop of the troubled Diocese of Ahiara.
Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor who read the letter from the Vatican announcing the appointment of Bishop Okpaleke as the new Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese to the faithful at St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, Awka, described the development as a “pleasant news with joy and gladness.”
Bishop Ezeokafor disclosed that the new diocese was formed from a part of the territory of the Diocese of Awka, and would be a suffragan See of the Metropolitan See of Onitsha while the newly-created diocese would cover Akpu, Ekwulobia and Achina regions.
The bishop said a series of letters were written to the pope regarding the creation of new dioceses out of Awka Diocese in the past but the Vatican City turned it down and instead opted for an auxiliary bishop. He said he was surprised to receive a mail yesterday notifying him of the creation of Ekwulobia as a diocese and the appointment of Bishop Okpaleke as its first bishop.
“We had written lots of letters in the past asking the Vatican to give us two more dioceses, Ekwulobia and Adazi. It was turned down. They asked us instead to apply for an auxiliary bishop which we did and Bishop Jonas Benson was appointed as an auxiliary bishop in the year 2014. We did not stop there.
‘We continued to push because here in Awka Diocese, we have the highest number of priests and Awka is too big for one person to handle even with an auxiliary bishop. It was not easy. We are glad for this great news. We thank Pope Francis for these appointments; it is a great relief,” Bishop Ezeokafor concluded.
Reacting, the Awka Diocesan Chancellor, Very Fr. Francis Chidume, the Episcopal Vicar of Ekwuluobia region and the Parish Priest of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Ekwulobia, Rev. Fr. Ignatius Onwuatuegwu and the administrator of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Very Rev. Fr. Matthew Attansey expressed gratitude to God for the creation of Ekwulobia Diocese and also for the appointment of Bishop Okpaleke as the first bishop.
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