Bishop of Nnewi, Anambra State, Jonas Benson Okoye, has relieved five priests in the Diocese of their duties over alleged insubordination.
The five Spiritan Priests who are from St Martin of Tours, Ihiala, are said to have been having a running battle with the Bishop over their residency in the parish, which allegedly led to their ejection from the parsonage of the church by Bishop Okoye, following an administrative re-arrangement aimed at creating a new parish in the area.
The Priests also described as “Holy Ghost Priests” who claimed that their order had been in possession of the parish for over 100 years refused the order of the Bishop for them to vacate the Parish for new Priests sent to handle the church.
However, consequent upon the alleged disobedience of the Bishop’s order, the Diocese withdrew their canonical faculties, also known as “authorities to perform acts or functions in the parish.”
Addressing newsmen in Ozubulu, the Ekwusigo Local Government Headquarters on Tuesday, a former Director of Communication of Nnewi Diocese, Rev. Fr. Hyginus Aghaulo said that the Spiritan Priests claim that Archbishop Heerey gave the parish to them in 1967, does not hold water.
Justifying the Nnewi Diocese Bishop’s action, Aghaulo said that the Spiritans claimed that Archbishop Heerey gave it to them in 1967, but that was under 1917 Code, but Can. 6 of 1983 Code abrogated the 1917 Code, unless such matters are renewed in 1983 Code, but there is no evidence that such renewal has taken place.
Aghaulo also stated that the 1983 Code abolished making a moral person, now a juridic person, a pastor. Now to be appointed a pastor, the person must be a physical person and be in priesthood.
“Even if a Parish is given to a juridic person even in soliduum, the Diocesan Bishop must appoint one of them the proper pastor.
“Fourthly, under the 1917 Code, when such grant was instituted, there was an express need for apostolic indult in order to have the character of perpetuity.
“The 1983 Code gives the discretion and right of free conferral on Diocesan Bishops and those equivalent to them in law, in line with canons 368 and 381, in the spiritual task of appointing pastors.
“Thus, the Diocesan Bishop can freely appoint and freely fire. He can freely create and freely suppress Parishes without recourse to existing customs, grants and centennial or immemorial bequests and grants.”
Aghaulo, maintained that religious institutes by virtue of their juridic personality were not distinctively and naturally destined for Parish administration, but for the living of evangelical counsel in their communities and convents unlike Diocesan or secular Priests whose destiny and nativity is to administer Parishes.
“That the religious are made pastors is a grant, privilege and at the discretion of the Bishop, because of dearth of secular clergy and for missionary cooperation and therefore, should not be a matter for claims.
“Even where they are given a Parish, a written agreement must stipulate the particular personnel and confirmation of the proper pastor by the Diocese’s Bishop. Religious institutes do not appoint pastors but only present them to the Bishop and such presentation is subject to the ratification and confirmation of the Diocesan Bishop.
“Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye, is a successor of Archbishop Heerey and so, has power to interpret or alter the perpetuity clause in such a convention because salvation of souls is the supreme law.
“That portion of the people of God in the parochial jurisdiction of St. Martin Ihiala, is a bona fide part of Nnewi Diocese under the pastoral care of Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye and so, he possesses immediate,full and proper power of order and jurisdiction over it (Can. 129) without prejudice to any extant laws or conventions.
Aghaulo noted that the development had been reported to the Superior General, whose duty it is to supervise the “Holy Ghost Priests”.