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Nigerian Diocese Places “temporary moratorium” on Catholic Priest-founded Congregation

The main building of the Congregation of Christ the Emmanuel in Nigeria's Aba Diocese. Credit: CCE/Facebook

The leadership of Nigeria’s Aba Diocese has announced a “temporary moratorium” on the ordinary functioning of the Congregation of Christ the Emmanuel (CCE), a Public Faithful Association founded by a Nigerian Catholic Priest.

In a letter addressed to CCE founder, Fr. John Okoro Egbulefu, the leadership of the Catholic Diocese of Aba highlights seven changes that are part of the “temporary” suspension, specifies the duration of the suspension, and, in some cases, provides justifications for the action on CCE whose members are known as the Emmanuelites.

“All public activities of the Association should be put on hold temporarily at least for a period of two years till the association is fully erected as an Institute of Diocesan Right,” the leadership of the Nigerian Diocese says in the letter signed by the Local Ordinary, Bishop Augustine Ndubueze Echema, and the Secretary/Chancellor, Fr. Godswill E. Ejeh.

The Emmanuelite Junior Seminary, an institution of CCE “can exist as an independent secondary school and not a minor seminary,” the leadership of the Nigerian Diocese further states.

The admission of candidates to CCE Novitiate and higher levels of Seminary formation is also suspended “till further notice.”

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The leadership of Aba Diocese has also disallowed CCE “from receiving temporary and perpetual professions till further notice.”

CCE Seminarians “currently undergoing formation in major seminaries (either in philosophy or theology are to proceed on a compulsory break for two years,” the leadership of the Nigerian Diocese says, and explains, “This is to enable the Association begin the canonical process of its erection into a Religious Institute of Diocesan Right.”

“Ordinations and Professions in the Association are henceforth temporarily suspended till further notice,” the Diocese’s leadership states, and adds, “The Catholic Diocese of Aba will take responsibility for clerics (deacons and priests) already ordained till the canonical erection of the Association as an Institute of Diocesan Right.”

Members of the Clergy “ordained in the Association” are to take part in a three-day “General Assembly” scheduled to from 9-11 January 2022, officials of the Nigerian Diocese state, and add in bold, “The Father Founder is hereby invited to be a full participant in this up-coming assembly. The venue for the assembly is St. Mary’s Seminary Azumini, Ndoki.”

In the letter dated September 17 in which Canonical stipulations of Diocesan associations and other associations are highlighted, the leadership of Aba Diocese says the “painful decision” to suspend the activities of CCE “was reached after a joint meeting of the Board of Consultors and the Senate of Priests with you the Father Founder (10/09/2021) and the 2019/2020 set of Priests ordained in the Association (16/09/2021) at the Chancery, Aba.”

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The decision, officials of the Diocese continue, “is to enable the Association to begin the canonical process of its erection into a Religious Institute of Diocesan Right.”

The measures announced “are borne out of a renewed spirit of love and concern, unity and for the good of the Association and our Diocese in particular and the universal Church in general,” officials of the Diocese say in the two-page letter. 

ACI Africa reached out to Fr. John Okoro Egbulefu for comment on the temporary moratorium, but did not get a response by the time of this publication.

Established in 1983 by Fr. Egbulefu, CCE whose members are known as the Emmanuelites seeks to transmit the word of God through the sciences. 

Born in 1950, Fr. Egbulefu was ordained a Priest for the then diocese of Umuahia in May 1976 at the Holy Cross Parish Church at Zirl, by Bishop Paulus Rusch of Austria’s Innsbruck Diocese.

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The Professor of Dogmatic Theology and the Sacraments has served in several positions: In 1990, Pope St. John Paul II appointed him a Peritus (theological Expert) for the general Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the formation of Priests; he was also appointed as the Consultor of the Pontifical Council for the dialogue with nonbelievers in 1992.

In 1995, he was appointed a member of the international Historico-Theological Commission for the Great Jubilee of the Holy Year 2000 and also acted as the Delegate President of the first Synod of Aba Diocese.

As a founder and member of CCE, he made his First profession in September 2002 and his final profession in August 2007.