Pope Francis Appoints Auxiliary Bishop of Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara, Nigeria

Mons. Simeon Okezuo Nwobi, appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Apostolic Administrator “sede vacante” of Nigeria’s Ahiara Diocese on 14 October 2023. Credit: Catholic Broadcast Commission,Nigeria.

Pope Francis has appointed Mons. Simeon Okezuo Nwobi, as the Auxiliary Bishop of the Apostolic Administrator “sede vacante” of Nigeria’s Ahiara Diocese.

The appointment of the member of the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Claretians), who is expected to assist Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Nigeria’s Owerri Archdiocese in governing Ahiara Diocese, was published by the Holy See Press office on October 14.

Born in March 1960, the Bishop-elect, a native of Nigeria’s Ahiara Diocese, was ordained a Priest in July 1990 after taking his first and perpetual vows as a Claretian.

Mons. Nwobi who has been 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).


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

In his Congregation of the Claretians, the Nigerian Auxiliary Bishop-elect 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. 

The Catholic Diocese of Ahiara, with 453,005 Catholics, according to 2022 statistics, has been under Archbishop Ugorji as Apostolic Administrator since February 2018 following the resignation of Bishop Okpaleke, now Cardinal.

The 60-year-old Nigerian Cardinal was appointed the Local Ordinary of Ahiara Diocese in December 2012. His appointment was rejected by a section of Clergy and Laity of the Nigerian Diocese.

The rejection of Cardinal Okpaleke, a member of the Clergy of Nigeria’s Awka Diocese, was based on the claim that he comes from outside the dominant ethnic group of Ahiara Diocese, the Mbaise.

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Those who protested the Papal appointment argued that that members of the Clergy of Ahiara Diocese were under-represented in the Catholic Church hierarchy in the West African nation.

He was impeded from setting foot in the territory covered by Ahiara Diocese. As a result, many Church activities in the Catholic Diocese were halted, including the ordination of candidates to Diaconate.

The May 2013 Episcopal Ordination of Cardinal Okpaleke took place outside Ahiara Diocese, at Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Ulakwo, in Nigeria’s Owerri Archdiocese.

The rejection persisted even after the Nigerian Cardinal’s Episcopal Consecration. In July 2017, Pope Francis 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.

According to a report by Agenzia Fides, the Holy Father “received 200 letters from individual priests of the Diocese of Ahiara, in which they manifested to him obedience and fidelity. Some priests, however, pointed out their psychological difficulty in collaborating with the Bishop (Okpaleke) after years of conflict.”


Pope Francis did not take the route of canonical sanctions and instead, through the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, directed the Clergy of Ahiara Diocese “to reflect on the grave damage inflicted on the Church of Christ and expressed hope that in the future they will never again repeat such unreasonable actions opposing a Bishop legitimately appointed by the Supreme Pontiff,” Agenzia Fides reported.

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.”

Pope Francis appointed him pioneer Bishop of Nigeria’s Ekwulobia Diocese, which had been erected on 5 March 2020

Bishop Okpaleke was among the 21 Cardinals-designate that Pope Francis named on 29 May 2022. He was among the 20 new Cardinals that the Holy Father created during the 27 August 2022 Consistory.

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.