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‘Unacceptable’: Pope’s Judgment on Ethnic Conflict in Nigerian Diocese of Ahiara

A Delegation, Including Cardinal Onaiyekan and Archbishop Kaigama, Visit the Vatican

Pope Francis received a delegation from the Nigerian Diocese of Ahiara in private audience on June 8, 2017, and he called an ongoing ethnic conflict, sparked by an appointment of a bishop in the diocese ‘unacceptable,’ reported the Holy See Press Office in a statement today.

When Pope Benedict XVI appointed Msgr. Okpaleke as the diocese’ bishop in 2012, lay people and priests of the diocese rejected their new bishop because, unlike his predecessor, Msgr. Victor Chikwe, part of the Mbaise ethnic group, which makes up the majority of the diocese, he comes from the Ibero ethnic group, which makes up the majority in the southeast Nigeria.

In 2013, Cardinal Onaiyekan was appointed Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara while waiting for a solution.

After “a careful evaluation” today, Pope Francis–the statement from the Vatican noted–stressed the “unacceptable character of the situation at Ahiara and [noted he] will take the appropriate measures.”

Accompanying the delegation were Archbishop of Abuja and Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara, Cardinal John Onaiyekan; the Metropolitan Archbishop of Owerri, Monsignor Anthony Obinna; the Archbishop of Jos and President of the Nigerian Episcopal Conference, Monsignor Ignatius Kaigama, and the Bishop of Ahiara, Monsignor Peter Ebere Okpaleke. Also representing the diocese were three priests, a woman religious and a traditional chief also represented the diocese.

In the course of their stay in Rome, the delegation’s members took part in the celebration of morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta with Pope Francis. They also met with the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, and the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni.


About Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, at times from the papal flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has done television and radio commentary, including for Vatican Radio, Sky, and BBC. She is a contributor to National Catholic Register, UK Catholic Herald, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside the Vatican, and other Catholic news outlets. She has also collaborated with the Vatican in various projects, including an internship at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and is a collaborator with NBC Universal, NBC News, Euronews, and EWTN. For 'The Other Francis': or

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