Some Catholic faithful in Ahiara, Mbaise in Imo, on Tuesday, expressed mixed feelings over the resignation of its embattled Bishop, Most Rev. Peter Okpalaeke, in office.
While the anti-Okpalaeke supporters jubilated and demonstrated in the streets of the town, the pro-Bishop supporters wore gloomy faces.
Reacting to the resignation, Mr. Eugene Eze, Parish Council Chairman, St. Peter Catholic Church, Ahiazu-Mbaise, said the resignation had vindicated those opposed to his appointment.
Eze, who hailed the bishop’s decision, said though Pope Francis partially resolved the matter, there were still internal wrangling.
“Bishop Peter Okpalaeke has faced serious opposition in the past six years over his appointment as the catholic Bishop of Ahiara Diocese.
“But, his continued stay as the bishop had disintegrated Catholic faithful in the area,” he said.
Also, Dr. Kenneth Nnanyere of Ahiara Diocese said the resignation of Okpalaeke would breed more rancor in the system than solve it.
He said there were members who believed in the estranged bishop, adding that such members would feel sidelined and fight back.
“His resignation was born out of the existing resistance of the people and though he has resigned, the problem is still there,” he said.
Nnayere regretted that a Bishop who should command respect was intimidated out of office in the guise of resignation.
“We will cooperate with the new administrator, but let me tell you, the problem is still there because we know those who opposed Bishop Okpalaeke and we will fight back,” he said.
Also, Mrs. Andaline Onwa, Chairperson of Catholic Women Organisation (CWO) St Barnabas Catholic Church, Ahiazu-Mbaise, said Okpalaeke acted like a real man of God by honorably resigning the embattled position.
“Our struggles over the years were anchored on marginalisation. Our people are marginalised in the appointment of Bishop and we stood firm to fight.”
She also commended those who stood firm over the years to sustain the struggle.
Meanwhile, youths of the area on Tuesday staged a solidarity match in support of the resignation and appointment of a new administrator.
Some people of Mbaise rejected the appointment of Okpalaeke as its bishop in 2012 on the grounds that he was not an indigene of the town.
The community, which is predominantly Catholics, claimed that it has produced greater number of priests and that it, therefore, deserved a bishop from the town.