Auxiliary Bishop Appointed Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Ahiara Catholic Diocese

Bishop Simeon Okezuo Nwobi. Credit: Ahiara Diocese

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Simeon Okezuo Nwobi, who has been serving as Auxiliary Bishop of the Apostolic Administrator “sede vacante” of Nigeria’s Ahiara Diocese as the Local Ordinary of the same Episcopal See.

The appointment of the member of the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretians) was made public by the Holy See Press Office Friday, May 3.

The Catholic Diocese of Ahiara has been under the temporary leadership of Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Nigeria’s Owerri Archdiocese as Apostolic Administrator since February 2018 following the resignation of Bishop Peter Okpaleke, now Cardinal.

The December 2012 Episcopal appointment of then Bishop-elect Okpaleke was rejected by a section of Clergy and Laity of the Nigerian Diocese, who claimed that he, a member of the Clergy of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Awka, comes from outside the dominant ethnic group of Ahiara Diocese, the Mbaise.

Those who protested the appointment of then Bishop-elect Okpaleke argued that members of the Clergy of Ahiara Diocese were under-represented in the Catholic Church hierarchy in Nigeria.


He was impeded from setting foot in the territory covered by Ahiara Diocese; and his May 2013 Episcopal Ordination took place outside Ahiara Diocese, in Nigeria’s Owerri Archdiocese. As Bishop, he was not allowed to access the Diocese, even after Pope Francis, in July 2017, directed all members of Clergy of Ahiara Diocese to pledge fidelity to him in writing, and to express their acceptance of the appointment of then Bishop Okpaleke as their Shepherd.

Having failed to exercise his Episcopal Ministry in the Nigerian Diocese, Bishop Okpaleke made known to Pope Francis his decision to resign in writing. On 19 February 2018, the Holy Father accepted Bishop Okpaleke’s resignation and “relieved him of the pastoral care of the Diocese of Ahiara.” He was later appointed pioneer Bishop of Nigeria’s Ekwulobia Diocese, which had been erected on 5 March 2020.

Born in March 1960, Bishop Nwobi, the newly appointed Local Ordinary of Ahiara Diocese, is a native of Nigeria’s Ahiara Diocese. He was ordained a Claretian Priest in July 1990.

The Nigerian Catholic Church leader, who was appointed Auxiliary Bishop on October 14 and assigned the Titular See of Rusguniae holds a Diploma in Public Administration from Enugu State University of Science and Technology in Nigeria.

He also holds a Licentiate in Missiology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).

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As a Priest, Bishop Nwobi has served in various capacities, including Parish Priest at St. Anthony’s in Igbo-Ora and Bursar of the Claretian Theological House of Enugu.

In his Congregation, the Nigerian Catholic Bishop has served as Provincial Superior of East Nigeria Province, Director of the Department of Spirituality of the Claretian Institute of Philosophy Maryland, Nedeke, Lecturer at the Bigard Memorial Seminary of Enugu, and Prefect of the Apostolate at the Claretian Provincial Curia of New Owerri, among other responsibilities. 

In an address to a section of members of the Clergy of Ahiara Diocese who paid him a courtesy visit days after his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop, Bishop Nwobi acknowledged with appreciation the positive reactions to his appointment that he has received.

“Since the announcement on Saturday (October 14), I have received overwhelming acceptance from Nigerians in Imo State and all our brothers and sisters in the diaspora pledging their support for Ahiara Diocese,” he said on 17 October 2023.

Bishop Nwobi recognized the Episcopal Ministry of the predecessor of Cardinal Okpaleke, the late Bishop Victor Adibe Chikwe, who he said “left a Diocese that was robust, a Diocese that was alive until what happened.”


“But we are a new creation now. We are going to work as a team, no victor, no vanquish. We are brothers and we will work that way,” he told members of the Clergy of Ahiara Diocese who paid him a courtesy visit.

At his Episcopal Ordination on 19 December 2023, Archbishop Ugorji said the Ordination of Bishop Nwobi “marks the first time ever a Bishop is ordained on the hallowed soil of Ahiara Diocese.”

He added, “The ordination of Bishop Simeon Nwobi is the greatest fruit of the spring time in the Diocese of Ahiara, inaugurated when I began my mission of peace in Ahiara Diocese five years ago.  I have no doubt that the Consecration today of Bishop Simeon Nwobi will completely heal the wounds of division.”

The Catholic Diocese of Ahiara has population of 453,005 Catholics, according to 2022 statistics.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.