Misunderstanding between the bishop, Catholic Diocese of Nnewi, Most Rev Jonas-Benson Okoye, the Ihiala Catholic Community, and the Holy Ghost priests of St Martin of Tours Parish, Ihiala, has continued unresolved; thereby, depriving the faithful of spiritual benefits of confession, baptism, Holy Communion, wedding, anointing of the sick, etc, for one year, and still counting.
This was disclosed in a press statement issued by the parishioners of St. Martin of Tours, Ihiala on Sunday, October 15, 2023, in Ihiala, to mark one year of alleged abandonment of the parish faithful by the church authorities.
The statement signed by the parish presidents of CMO, Linus Nnubia; CWO, Comfort Okolie; CBO, Izuchukwu Ikudike; CGO, Chimuanya Uba; as well as vice chairman of Parish Council, Ansus Ohaeri; spokesperson of Concerned People of Ihiala, Nonye Chukwu; and leader of Concerned People of Ihiala, Orjiewuru Udeorji, said that worshipers in St Martin of Tours, Ihiala, are presently like sheep without a shepherd.
The statement reads in part, “Today marks the anniversary of the abandonment of St. Martin of Tours Parish, Ihiala, by His Lordship, Jonas Benson Okoye, the Catholic Bishop of Nnewi diocese. By this action, the bishop in the past 12 months, has deprived the lay faithful of their spiritual benefits in the church. The bishop and his diocesan priests have delisted St Martin of Tours from Nnewi Catholic community; and barred them from participating in diocesan activities; while the Catholic church hierarchy appeared to be insensitive to the matter that concerns the lay faithful – the pillar on which the church stands.
“To ensure that our faith as devout Catholics does not fade, and in order not to allow the faithful to scatter, we took the challenge as a test of our faith to celebrate Holy Mass every Sunday, undertake all the important church programmes like Corpus Christi, Holy Week and Easter activities, Advent, Christmas; burying the lay faithful etc.”
The statement recalled that in November, 2022, Bishop Jonas-Benson Okoye, on assumption of office as the bishop of Nnewi diocese, gave ultimatum to Holy Ghost priests to vacate St. Martin of Tours, Ihiala, which is the regional headquarters of the Holy Ghost priests, to enable him assign his diocesan priests to the parish.
The move by the bishop, according to them, met strong resistance from the parishioners, which made the bishop to remove the spiritual powers of the Holy Ghost priests to celebrate Holy Mass, dethroned St Martin from being the Southeast regional headquarters of the Holy Ghost priests, and further barred the parish from participating in diocesan activities.
The parishioners also told the Catholic church to take note that St Martins parish, Ihiala, was established on the said land in 1908, and that since then, it has been serving as evangelization center from which the Holy Ghost priests have traversed the southeast preaching the gospel and establishing other mission centers, with St. Martins as their patrimonial home – adding that any attempt to push the Holy Ghost priests out of their patrimonial home will be constantly resisted.