Update on New Nigerian Bishop of Ahiara
Recent reports from the Christian press suggested that Pope Francis compromised himself in Nigeria [Did Pope Francis Back Down in Nigeria?]. Francis accepted the resignation of the bishop Pope Benedict had appointed to the diocese of Ahiara. The people of Ahiara had refused to let him assume office, as he was a carpetbagger. Previously, Pope Francis threatened to dismiss all priests who failed to submit to his order and accept this appointed bishop– though Francis never followed through on his threat when the people and priests of Ahiara called his bluff.
According to original reports, the priests and people of Ahaira did not react to Pope Francis’ new appointment as bishop. It turns out that this was a just a temporary appointment. Furthermore, the latest report in CRUX makes it clear that the new appointee was also a carpet-bagger. Rather than take the opportunity to address complaints about lack of representation, and far from backing down, Pope Francis actually doubled-down and challenged the people of Ahiara by appointing another carpetbagger.
For the first time in nearly a decade, some Church functions requiring a bishop were performed. Crux reports that 400 priests turned out for one of them, calling it miraculous. They also report that most of these priests were from outside Ahiara. Crux failed to mention that there are about 500 priests in Ahiara; apparently most failed to attend the mass celebrated by the new bishop.
CRUX reports the comments of one of those outsiders: “What is happening in Ahiara diocese is nothing short of a miracle. The problems of the past are gone for good. No division or discrimination whatsoever. All have melded into one family.” This is wishful thinking, and almost certainly false. It remains to be seen how Ahiara will react when a permanent replacement is made. There had been little news coverage of this affair, in which Pope Francis behaved like an autocrat, quite unlike his usual persona. It is possible that the people of Ahiara are tired of fighting the Vatican, and will submit. But I am far less certain of this than the Vatican or its cheerleaders at CRUX.