The Knights of St. John International and Ladies Auxiliary (KSJI), an Order within the Roman Catholic Church, has advised priests and the laity of the Ahiara Diocese in Imo State to fully comply with the directive by Pope Francis.
The Pope had directed that it accept Bishop Peter Okpaleke as the ordained Bishop of the diocese.
This position is contained in a statement by the KSJI after the meeting of the Supreme Subordinate Board (National) of the body and its Ladies held over the weekend at KSJI Avenue, Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri, Imo State.
Speaking after the meeting, the Supreme Subordinate President, KSJI Nigeria, Major General Anselm Okafor frowned at the situation in Ahiara Diocese and upheld the position of the Vatican on the dispute.
“We Knights of St. John International condemn in its entirety the attitude of members of the lay faithful of Ahiara Diocese, which is bothering on intransigence and disrespect to the Pope,” he said.
“We also express our disappointment with the priests who should know better. Make no mistake about it; the Catholic Church has a rich and enviable history, devoid of ethnic and primordial considerations and therefore, the appointment of a Bishop is at the behest of the Pope, and this is backed by Cannon Law 377”, he added.
Bishop Okpaleke was appointed Bishop of Ahiara Diocese by the then Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, but has been unable to take control of the diocese because of protests by some of the priests and lay faithful, who contend that Ahiara is in Mbaise, a predominantly Catholic region of Imo State and that Bishop Okpaleke was brought from neighboring Anambra State.