Pope gives priests 30 days to accept bishop or be fired

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Pope Francis has given priests in the Nigerian Diocese of Ahiara 30 days to write a letter promising obedience to him and accepting the bishop appointed for their diocese.

Priests who do not write the letter will be suspended, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

The papal text in English was posted on the blog of Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference, and Fides posted it in Italian.

The Vatican press office could not immediately confirm its authenticity, although Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, who also was present, told the Catholic News Service that they were the remarks of the Pope.

A day earlier, Nigerian Church leaders met Pope Francis 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.

The Vatican issued only a short communiqué on the meeting with the Pope, describing the situation in the diocese as “unacceptable.” The protests were motivated by the fact that Bishop Okpaleke is not a local priest.

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