Pope Francis Backs Down in Clash Over Nigerian Bishop

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Priests of the diocese had rejected a leader from a different ethnic group

Pope Francis removed an unpopular Nigerian bishop after five years of protests by local priests, in an extraordinary reversal that showed the limits of the pope’s power over his own hierarchy and the continuing challenge of ethnic divisions in Africa, the church’s fastest-growing region.

The Vatican announced Monday that the pope had accepted the resignation of Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke of the diocese of Ahiara, who had been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in December 2012, but who had been prevented by local clergy from taking up his role there.

Ahiara is a highly Catholic region of Nigeria, with 67% of the local population belonging to the church, according to Vatican statistics. Africa is by far the continent where Catholicism is growing fastest, from 186 million adherents to 222 million (or 19.4%), from 2010 to 2015.

The Ahiara priests’ main complaint was that Bishop Okpaleke doesn’t belong to the locally dominant Mbaise ethnic group, but to another group, the Igbo.

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