The Bishop of Ekwulobia, Peter Cardinal Okpaleke, has recalled the circumstances leading to his coronation as the new prince of the Nigerian Catholic Church, saying all things work for the good of those who love God.
Before his elevation as Cardinal, controversy had trailed Okpaleke’s appointment as Bishop of Ahiara Diocese in Imo State. Some clergy and lay faithful had protested his appointment because he is not an indigene. The situation forced him to resign which later made Pope Francis carve out Ekwulobia Diocese in Anambra and installed him as Bishop.
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In an interview with Vatican City News, Okpaleke spoke about how he received the news of his appointment and how his pastoral experiences contribute to inspiring him in his new role.
“We know that all things work for good for those who love God,” Okapaleke said, stating that he considered his own unworthiness and shortcomings. “By the grace of God, it has pleased the Holy Spirit working in the Church.”
According to Okpaleke, in spite of the difficult moments and the antagonism that trailed his appointment as Bishop, God granted him peace as he had never experienced before.
He said, “Jesus talks of this type of peace in John 14:27. Now, I know what Jesus meant; that he gives us peace; not the kind of peace that the world gives.”
“Ours is a providential God who, in spite of seeming confusion and randomness, directs history to his purpose and invites all to open themselves up and contribute their own God-given energies, insights, and talents to the Divine project of making the face of the Earth to reflect more clearly the Kingdom of God.”
On Saturday, Okapaleke was one of the 20 new cardinals sworn in by Pope Francis at St. Peters Square in Rome.
The College of Cardinals is a body of senior priests who support the pope in overseeing the affairs of the church, and they also vote during papal elections. Bishop Okpaleke who is among the 20 new cardinals of the church is one of two African bishops and the only Nigerian sworn in.
With the new cardinals, the total number of College of Cardinals has now grown from 208 to 229.