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Pope tells Nigerian priests accept bishop or be suspended


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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis is giving priests belonging to the Diocese of Ahiara, Nigeria, 30 days to write a letter promising obedience to him and accepting the bishop appointed for their diocese or they will be suspended.

The papal text in English was posted June 9 on the blog of Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the Nigerian bishops' conference. Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja told Catholic News Service the same day that the text was what Pope Francis said. The Vatican press office released the text June 10.


Nigerian church leaders had met Pope Francis June 8 to discuss the situation of Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, who was appointed bishop of Ahiara by then-Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, but who has been unable to take control of the diocese because of protests, apparently by the majority of priests.

Initially the Vatican issued only a short communique on the meeting with the pope, describing the situation in the diocese as "unacceptable" and saying the pope "reserved the right to take appropriate measures."

The protests were motivated by the fact that Bishop Okpaleke is not a local priest.

In the full text posted later, Pope Francis told the Nigerian leaders, "I think that, in this case, we are not dealing with tribalism, but with an attempted taking of the vineyard of the Lord." The pope also referred to "the parable of the murderous tenants" in Matthew 21:33-44.

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