Recent Creation of Nigerian Bishop as Cardinal Hailed as “an elevation of local Church”

Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke speaking on the occasion of the thanksgiving Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral of Ekwulobia Diocese. Credit: Nigeria Catholic Network.

The elevation of Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke of Nigeria’s Ekwulobia Diocese to the rank of Cardinal is a promotion of the local Church, the people of God in Nigeria, a Catholic Archbishop in the West African nation has said.

In a report published Friday, September 9, Archbishop Valerian Maduka Okeke is quoted as saying that the choice of the new Nigerian Cardinal is an invitation to “greater commitment to witnessing to the Gospel of Christ” in Africa’s most populous nation.

“Today, we rejoice that Nigeria has been found worthy of honor of another Cardinal in our time,” Archbishop Okeke who was speaking on the occasion of the thanksgiving Mass of Cardinal Okpaleke at St. Joseph Cathedral of Ekwulobia Diocese said.

The Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Onitsha Archdiocese, the Metropolitan See under which Ekwulobia Diocese belongs further said that “the elevation of one of us is an elevation of the local Church and our country Nigeria.”

“The choice of our brother, Cardinal Okpaleke, invites us to a deeper faith and greater commitment to witnessing to the Gospel of Christ,” he further said, adding, “Position and privileges in the Church go with responsibilities and duties.”


Archbishop Okeke continued in reference to the new Nigerian Cardinal, “We therefore rejoice with him as we promise him our prayers and unflinching support.”

Cardinal Okpaleke who resigned in 2018 following sustained opposition to his Episcopal appointment for Nigeria’s Ahiara Diocese was  among the 21 new Cardinals that Pope Francis named on Sunday, May 29.

He was among the 20 new Cardinals that Pope Francis created during the August 27 Consistory.

During the Holy Mass held on Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Archbishop Okeke invited the new Nigerian Cardinal to be devoted to the Virgin Mary. 

In the report published September 9, the 68-year-old Nigerian Archbishop described Cardinal Okpaleke as “a project in progress” with human vulnerabilities.

More in Africa

“Always remember that you are still a project in progress; being human, you are still vulnerable,” he said, and added, “Therefore, you have to recourse to our Blessed Mother Mary… take her home and enjoy her powerful maternal intercession.”

Being a Cardinal “is one of the glorious heritages of the Church … which has existed from the late antiquity of the Church to the present time,” Archbishop Okeke said. 

The Local Ordinary of Onitsha Archdiocese continued, “Cardinals are specially called to witness to the faith with their sweat and blood whenever and wherever it is required.”

Cardinals are called “to heroic service,” he said, and added, “Cardinals wear red as an outward sign of their willingness to die for Christ and his Church.”

Archbishop Okeke said that the Church in Nigeria, just like the early Christians, has a reason to celebrate the new Cardinal. “Despite the human pain, families celebrated and thanked God when a member of their family was publicly executed for the sake of Christ,” he said in reference to the early Christians.


In his goodwill message during the September 8 Eucharistic celebration, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, congratulated the “newest and youngest Nigerian Cardinal” and lauded him for being a witness to the faith “in trying times”.

Recalling circumstances leading to the new Cardinal writing his letter of resignation in April 2018, Archbishop Ugorji said, “In trying times, as the storm was raging, you fixed your gaze in silent tears on Christ, crucified and risen, and witnessed to His long-suffering on the cross through endurance, patience, forbearance and self-restraint.”

Archbishop Ugorji went on to assure the new Cardinal of the spiritual solidarity of the members of CBCN and invited him to “say ‘no’ to retaliation and exhibit a forgiving and long-suffering attitude.” He added, “No doubt, your elevation to the rank of a Cardinal is a moral lesson.”

In a video recording circulated Wednesday, June 8 following his May 29 naming as Cardinal, the 59-year-old Nigerian Catholic Church leader said, “I see this as an opportunity that the Lord, and the Church, through the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has offered me to continue to do my best for the salvation of souls.”

He said that Pope Francis’ decision was “a clarion call to intensify one’s efforts, to do better.”  

(Story continues below)

“The Pope made this decision when I have served here for less than three years. Such an opportunity has come to serve the Church, Catholic diocese of Ekwulobia, and to make my humble contribution to the Universal Church. I feel humbled,” the new Nigerian Cardinal said in the video recording published June 8.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.