December 7, 2022
Cardinal Okpaleke

Nigeria Gets Fourth Cardinal

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Pope Francis appoints 20 new cardinals

Pope Francis has appointed 20 new cardinals at a Papal Consistory on Saturday, the new “princes of the church” are from Britain, South Korea, Spain, France, Nigeria, Brazil, India, the United States, East Timor, Italy, Ghana, Singapore, Paraguay, and Colombia. In his homily the pope encouraged the 20 newly-created Cardinals to embrace apostolic zeal and bear witness to God’s boundless love, and asked everyone to pray for new Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr, Bishop of Wa, Ghana, who was hospitalised Friday after arriving in Rome.

Peter Obi with Cardinal Okpaleke

Among the cardinals to receive the  red skullcap, biretta, ring, the bull assigning the title and rank at St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican was Nigerian bishop  Peter Okpaleke of Ekwulobia, Anambra state. The College of Cardinals is the body that elects the Pope if he dies or resigns.

Cardinal Okpaleke’s Coat of Arms

Okpaleke is one of two African bishops and the only Nigerian sworn in. Bishop Okpaleke was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 as bishop of the  diocese of Ahiara. Local clergy and faithful objected to his appointment and prevented him from entering the cathedral in order to take possession of the diocese. He resigned as bishop of Ahiara in 2018 and was installed by Francis as the new bishop of the newly created diocese of Ekwulobia in 2020. With his new position, Bishop Okpaleke becomes the fourth Cardinal from Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, which faces its own challenges on different levels. The Church in the country has been vocal on several issues and has been at the forefront of social justice matters.

Anambra State Governor Charles Soludo with the new cardinal

Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), was at the consistory.

While congratulating Okpaleke, Obi said he has remained a blessing to the church and the country.

In a post on Twitter, Obi wrote: “I rejoice with His Eminence, Peter Cardinal Okpaleke as he canonically receives the Red Hat from His Holiness, Pope Francis at a Consistory in Rome today, by which function, he has become a fully fledged Prince of the Universal Church.

“He has remained a blessing to not just the church in Nigeria, but the universal church. His patience, understanding and wide perspectives on issues remain some of his valuable assets that have continued to propel him higher in the priestly vocation.”

Charles Soludo, Anambra governor, who was also present at the ceremony, said it is a special day for his state.

“Those of us from Anambra have come to celebrate with him and welcome him as he receives the red hat,” Soludo said.

Opaleke is the fifth cardinal from Nigeria — others are Dominic Ekandem (now late), John Onaiyekan, Anthony Okogie and Francis Arinze.

The ceremony marked the eight time Francis has put his stamp on the Church’s future with a new intake of cardinals who will serve as his top advisors and administrators at the Vatican and around the globe. With each consistory, Francis has continued what one diplomat has called a “tilt towards Asia,” increasing the likelihood that the next pope could be from the region that is a growing economic and political powerhouse.

The College of Cardinals now has 229 members.

Source Vatican Media/NAN

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