Nnewi Catholic Bishop bans Spiritans from performing priestly duties

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The Bishop of Nnewi Catholic Diocese in Anambra State, Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye, has withdrawn the faculty of five Spiritans priests, otherwise called Holy Ghost Priests.

Rev Fr. Hyginus Aghaulor, former director of Communications of the diocese, who spoke to journalists, said the withdrawal of faculty meant the priests would not be able to perform any duties within the diocese, and even when they do, such functions would be considered illicit.

“If they baptize someone, conduct a wedding, the wedding and baptism would be illicit. They cannot even celebrate mass because their faculty has been withdrawn by the bishop,” he said.

There had been a disagreement between five Holy Ghost priests and the bishop, who had transferred them out of their parish at St Martin of Tours, Ihiala. Some media outfits had reported that the priests were sacked by the bishop.

But Aghaulor, while speaking with journalists last Tuesday, said: “The priests were not sacked; they were rather re-deployed. In Canon Law, on which the church operates, the bishop has the powers to redeploy priests, and that was what he did.

“Besides, the Spiritans have been frustrating the efforts of the bishop in the creation of a new parish in Ihiala. Our diocese has grown with over 400 priests, and there is need for new deployments; so the bishop created a new parish and deployed some of our priests there, and now transferred the Spiritans to the juniorate.

“The Spiritans have refused to leave, trying to frustrate the genuine efforts of the bishop.”

But in last Tuesday’s briefing, Aghaulor said there was no question of the priests being sacked, just that the bishop who is in control of the diocese decided to move them to new roles.

He lamented the disobedience of the priests, saying such was not the training of priests.

“There are consequences for disobedience, and we all know it. The Spiritans have disobeyed the bishop, and it is not good. The bishop is in charge of the diocese and has right to deploy people on the tasks he wishes them to undertake,” he stated.

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