“Grassroot evangelization will be a priority”: Nigerian Bishop at Installation

Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, pioneer Bishop of the Diocese of Ekwulobia in Nigeria installed Wednesday, April 29, 2020.

On the occasion of his episcopal installation, the pioneer Bishop of the newly erected diocese of Ekwulobia in southeastern Nigeria, Peter Ebere Okpaleke, has said that in his pastoral ministry, he will strive to emphasize evangelization at the local level, inviting the people of God to a “personal and intimate relationship with Jesus.”

“Grassroot evangelization will be a priority in my pastoral mission in Ekwulobia diocese. Grassroot evangelization in the sense of inviting people to a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus and with one another in the Church,” Bishop Okpaleke said Wednesday, April 29 at his installation at St. Joseph’s Cathedral Ekwulobia. 

During the installation Mass attended by a limited number of faithful in adherence to COVID-19 restrictions, the Prelate who had been ordained a Bishop in 2013 said that the grassroot evangelization he envisages will “be followed up with sustained catechesis.”

“We look forward to a style of ministry that is collaborative centered on the Eucharist, on the family in view of contributing to the integral human development of man and of society,” Bishop Okpaleke said during the Mass that was presided over by Papal delegate, Archbishop Valerian Okeke and streamed online.  

The 57-year-old Nigerian Prelate also said the diocese will “harness the means of social communication for this outreach” adding that he will “seek to build a community of love and service, open to working with our brothers and sisters of other denominations.”


The April 29 episcopal installation is a fulfillment of two landmark announcements of March 5, 2020, where Pope Francis created, erected, and constituted a new Diocese called Ekwulobia from Awka Diocese, and immediately appointed Peter Okpaleke as her first Bishop.

Bishop Okpaleke, a clergy of Nigeria’s Awka diocese, was to succeed the late Bishop Anthony Chikwe in Ahiara diocese. However, he was rejected by a section of the clergy and lay faithful.

Following his appointment as Bishop of Ahiara diocese in December 2012 and his subsequent ordination in 2013, Bishop Okpaleke never stepped foot on his Cathedral and only remained Bishop of the Diocese in name.

Bishop Opaleke resigned as Bishop of Ahiara in 2018.

At his April 29 installation, Bishop Opaleke underscored the value of family in his pastoral plan going forward saying, “As a diocese, we are committed to living the mystery of the Church as a family. We will pay extra attention to the family as a domestic church and as a basic social unit whose health affects the Church and society at large.”

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Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected at least 1,532 people in Africa’s most populous nation, Bishop Okpaleke noted, “The restriction on physical attendance to this installation ceremony and the meticulous observation of safety principles show that the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic is real.”

He added, “COVID-19 reminds all of us in a powerful way that every life is fragile, the poor and the rich alike. Our lives and safety depend and are interconnected with the safety of others even those we do not know.”

“It (COVID-19) exposes the futility of the efforts of men who attempt to secure themselves during this pandemic,” he said and continued, “This pandemic is an invitation for us to build a community of life, love, justice and regard for others.”

Reflecting on the safety measures put in place to contain the disease, the Bishop of Ekwulobia cautioned, “Today we are aware that taking for granted certain activities will result in sickness and deaths. In other words, God is inviting us to take nothing for granted anymore and to cultivate gratitude as a basic disposition in life.”

He also underlined the importance of the Holy Eucharistic during this period of the pandemic saying, “We have to continue having the Eucharist at the center of our life and ministry as a diocese.”


Reflecting on the closure of places of worship due to the pandemic, he said, “It seems God wants to remind us that the Church is primarily the people of God. Church buildings are needed as places of worship, but through the pandemic, God has allowed the church buildings to be locked up so as to allow the question of the deeper meaning of the church to emerge.”

He added, “Hopefully after this pandemic, there will be due sensitivity and commitment to become truly people of God in our communities.” 

The newly erected diocese of Ekwulobia measures 675.8 square kilometres with a Catholic population of 602,115 across 82 parishes.

The newly installed Bishop will be counting on the collaboration of 240 diocesan priests, 12 priests belonging to different religious orders, nine men religious, 22 women religious and 58 major seminarians.

With the newly erected diocese, Nigeria has 55 Ecclesiastical Sees comprising nine Archdioceses and 46 dioceses.

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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.