The appointment of Ugorji follows the resignation of Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke. Although the website of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria still displays his name as bishop of Ahiara, Msgr. Peter Ebere Okpaleke has announced his resignation from the post.
Benedict XVI appointed Okpaleke as bishop of the southern Nigerian diocese in December 2012. However, due to backlash from both clergy and lay people because Okpaleke was from a minority ethnic group, he was never allowed to undertake his mission and was forced to reside in Awka, 60 miles north.
Pope Francis invited the Nigerian bishop to the Vatican in June 2017 and called for letters of apology from all priests in the diocese. Most complied, though some refused.
On Ash Wednesday of this year, as Okpaleke was still barred from the diocesan cathedral, the bishop published his resignation letter, an act he says he hopes will “facilitate re-evangelization of the faithful and the priests of the Ahiara diocese.”
In a press release published by the Vatican on Monday, Pope Francis accepted Okpaleke’s resignation. While the statement says the Holy Father doesn’t intend to appoint a new bishop for the time being, he has assigned an “Apostolic Administrator” in the form of a bishop from a neighboring diocese, through whom the pope prays “the local Church will recover its vitality.”