FEW weeks after a group of Catholic faithful in Igboland staged street protests against the appointment of a Bishop from a different sub-ethnic clan,
a similar crisis erupted in Benin City, Edo State at the weekend.
This time, some Edo Catholic members are accusing a Bishop of executing alleged plots to marginalise them in favour of Igbo members.
Acting under the umbrella of Edo Liturgical Group, the fresh crisis is against the leadership of the Catholic Archdiocese in Benin City.
Members of the group, at a press conference held in Benin, accused the Archbishop of the Benin Metropolitan See, Most Reverend Dr. Augustine O. Akubueze of plotting to replace Catholic priests and the laity of Benin origin with Igbo faithful.
The protesters, led by Andrew I. Ayemwenre (chairman), Dr. Michael I. Asuen (Secretary) and Vincent Osakue (President) demanded among others; the removal of Archbishop Akubueze from Benin. They also want a Benin priest to be made a bishop and Archbishop in his place. This, according to them, is the basic minimum condition for true evangelisation of the people of the area.
They also demanded that about 34 Igbo priests brought to their diocese by Bishop Akubueze and his predecessor be replaced by diocesan priests from Auchi, Uromi and Warri.
Lastly, they want the mass to be conducted in Edo language in the entire Benin Archdiocese.
The group further demanded that the name Edo Liturgical Group be allowed to remain while Pa. V.N. Osakue who was derobed from the Knighthood of Saint Mulumba with Mr. Chris Aghimein as Secretary of the Archdiocesan Laity Council be reinstated.
Specifically, the people observed with dismay that “in less than two years of Archbishop Akubueze’s coming, there appears to be a design by him to replace our people (priests and laity) in the Catholic church.”
They requested that an indigenous bishop be appointed to help achieve proper evangelisation of our land in accordance with the recommendation for the church in the document of Pope Benedict xv maximum iluid of November 30, 1919 in which he said that a native can truly evangelize his people”
According to them, “Igbo mass is a norm in every part of eastern Nigeria where the Archbishop hails from but he (Bishop Akubueze) does not want Edo mass in Benin.”
According to Ayemwenre, “In spite of the so many peace moves made by the Edo Liturgical Group, Bishop Akubueze failed to accede to our requests; he refused to approve the one Mass on Sunday for the indigenes in all parishes in Benin City.
Holy Cross as a parish has 28 Sunday Masses in a month while only one Mass is said in Edo language for her indigenes. This means that, of the 364 Sunday Masses in a year, only 12 is in the native tongue. Meanwhile, in Onitsha and the entire eastern Nigeria, the reverse is the case. The use of Benin language as part of the Mass is a taboo by Bishop Akubueze.”
He said the group would explore all options available to them to ensure that their demands are met and that they would pursue their case to a logical conclusion.
It would be recalled that members of the liturgical group had earlier obtained an interim injunction to restrain the Archbishop Akubueze from being inaugurated as bishop last two years ago, a matter that stakeholders and the Benin traditional institution waded into before the ceremony was held in the state.
It was gathered that the elders and church council of the Benin Archdiocese were in a crucial meeting yesterday to extensively deliberate on the contentious issue and will come out with a positive stand on the position of the aggrieved group.