Bishop of Nnewi Catholic Diocese in Anambra State, Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye, has withdrawn the faculty of five Spiritans priests, otherwise called Holy Ghost Priests.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 a nullity.
“If they baptize someone, conduct a wedding, the wedding and baptism is a nullity. They can not even celebrate mass because their faculty has been withdrawn by the bishop,” he said.
Saga Gist had earlier reported of the sacking of five holy ghost priests from their parish, St Martin of Tours, Ihiala, by the Bishop, and protests by some members of the parish against the Bishop, over the action.
But Aghaulor while speaking with journalists on Tuesday said: “The priests were not sacked, they were rather re-deployed. In Canon Law, 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.
“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.”
But in 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 that such was not the training of priests.
“There is 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 likened it to the recent transfer of the spiritual director of Adoration Ministry Enugu, AMEN, Rev Fr Ejike Mbaka, who was recently moved to the monastery by the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese.