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Pope Francis has given Nigerian priests 30 days to pledge obedience to him and accept a bishop appointed for their diocese – or risk being suspended, the Associated Press news agency reports.
The pontiff met on 8 June a delegation from the Ahiara diocese in south-eastern Nigeria, where priests have been refusing to accept the 2012 appointment by then pontiff, Benedict XVI, of the local bishop, Peter Okpaleke.
Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported yesterday that Pope Francis was acting “for the good of the people of God” by threatening to suspend the priests from the ministry if they did not pledge in a letter, by July 9, “total obedience” and accept Bishop Okpaleke’s appointment.
The Vatican issued only a short statement on the 8 June meeting, describing the situation in the diocese as “unacceptable”, the Catholic Herald reported.
The protests were motivated by the fact that Bishop Okpaleke is not a local priest, it added.
The newspaper quoted the Pope as saying that every priest of the diocese must write a letter to him by 9 July asking for forgiveness and “must clearly manifest total obedience to the Pope” – or else he would be suspended and would lose his office.
Pope Francis said he was taking a tough line because “the people of God are scandalised. Jesus reminds us that whoever causes scandal must suffer the consequences”, the Catholic Herald quoted the Pope as saying.