A new Diocese of Ekwulobia has been established by the Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis, who has also announced the appointment of Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, the Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Ahiara, Mbaise, Imo State, as its first Ordinary.
Making the new creation and appointment known on Thursday at St. Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, Awka, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, described it as ‘pleasant surprises.’
He said that the new Diocese was formed from part of the territory of the Diocese of Awka and would be a suffragan See of the Metropolitan See of Onitsha, adding that the newly created diocese would cover Akpu, Ekwuluobia and Achina regions.
He said, “After series of letters written to Pope regarding creating new dioceses out of Awka Diocese in the past, the Vatican City turned it down and instead opted for an auxiliary bishop.
“I was surprised to receive a mail today notifying me of the creation of Ekwuluobia as a diocese and the appointment of Bishop Okpaleke as first bishop.
“We have written lots of letters in the past, asking the Vatican to give us two more dioceses, Ekwuluobia and Adazi. It was turned down.
“They asked us instead to apply for an auxiliary bishop which we did and Bishop Jonas Benson was appointed as an auxiliary bishop in 2014. We did not stop there.
“We continued to push because here in Awka Diocese, we have the highest number of priests and Awka is too big for person to handle even with an auxiliary bishop. It was not easy.
“We are glad for this great news. We thanked Pope Francis for these appointments, it is a great relief.”
In separate reactions shortly after receiving the news, the Awka Diocesan Chancellor, Very Fr. Francis Chidume and Administrator of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Very Rev. Fr. Matthew Attansey thanked God for the creation of the new Diocese as well as the appointment of Bishop Okpaleke.
The Episcopal Vicar of Ekwuluobia Region and Parish Priest of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Ekwuluobia, Rev. Fr. Ignatius Onwuatuegwu could not also hold his joy as he wished the Bishop well in his new appointment.