The Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Anambra State, Jonas Benson Okoye, has withdrawn the canonical faculties of five Spiritan priests in the area over alleged insubordination.
It was gathered that the five priests of St Martin of Tours, Ihiala, had been having a running battle with the bishop over their residency in the parish, which hitherto led to their ejection from the parsonage of the church.
The ejection followed an administrative rearrangement aimed to create a new parish in the area.
But the Holy Ghost priests refused the order of the bishop for them to vacate the parish for new priests sent to man the church, claiming that their order had been in possession of the parish for over 100 years.
Disclosing the development to journalists at Ozubulu, in Ekwusigo Local Government of the state, a former Director of Communications of Nnewi Diocese, Rev Dr. Hyginus Aghaulo, said: “The Spiritans claim that Archbishop Heerey gave it (parish) to them in 1967. That was under 1917 Code but canon 6 of 1983 Code abrogated 1917 Code unless such matters are renewed in 1983 Code but there is no evidence that such happened.
“Thirdly, 1983 Code abolished making a moral person now 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 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 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.
“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 were to administer parishes.
“That religious are made pastors is a grant, privilege and at the discretion of d bishop because of dearth of secular clergy and for missionary cooperation and therefore should not be a matter for claims.”
While noting that in a situation 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, the clergyman added that religious institutes do not appoint pastors but only present to the bishop and subject to the ratification and confirmation of d diocesan Bishop.
He said that in the Ihiala case, 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 stated.
According to him, the development had been reported to the Superior General whose duty it is to supervise the Holy Ghost priests.