AMID tainting allegations in social media and claims of his sack from priesthood, a Tanzania-based Roman Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Ekene Oliver Nwosu approached National Light newspaper yesterday and sought to be given opportunity to “tell the world” his own story before higher authorities tarnish his image.
“I want to use this opportunity to let the world know that I am being framed. I want the world to know the truth of my persecution. They want me to look like a criminal. I am not a criminal. And I want His Holiness, Pope Francis to hear my cry and intervene,” the priest said.
The Owerre Ezukala, Orumba South Local Council of Anambra State born priest who was ordained a deacon by the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor on July 18, 2015. The priest alleged that Ezeokafor eventually refused to elevate him to the status of a reverend father, saying that there is a group of priests who out of malice, put a wedge between him and the bishop who otherwise was his mentor.
According to him, those priests in the bishop’s court who did everything to frustrate his priesthood ambition and once got Ezeokafor to suspend him and later retrieved the letter before he eventually got ordained in Tanzania are the ones spreading the current bad press on him through the Internet.
He therefore sent an SOS to the Vatican for the Holy See to save him before the powers against him stop him from his clerical duties and “call to help the poor and down-trodden”.
He wants Rome to come to his aid over the injustice which as he observed is “totally against the church’s Cannon Law” and the authorities of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, whom he claimed are dragging his name to the mud just because against the personal wish of some big clerics, he has become a priest.
Fr Nwosu disclosed that he had no problem with his bishop.
“To be honest, I had a very good working relationship with the bishop”, he said, reasoning that what caused the development could d rather be a result of his relationship with him.
He gave his story thus: “I was ordained a deacon of Awka Diocese by Ezeokafor. After my ordination as a deacon, I worked tirelessly and obediently for him and the diocese for a good number of years. When it was time for him to ordain me as priest, he refused, and I think, he did that because of one or two persons around him who insisted that they can’t be alive and see me become a priest.
“I had a very good working relationship with the bishop. We worked very closely and he has this special love for me. Left for Ezeokafor, he would have ordained me a priest but because of some individuals (one or two priests) around him who whenever they see you with the bishop, they become jealous and envious. Because of this, bishop decided not to ordain me a priest.
“In fact, I am not here to argue or state why the bishop couldn’t ordain me as priest because the bishop has the right to do so. But the point is this: when the bishop stopped my ordination into priesthood, I thought that he had a plan for me but, to my greatest surprise, he called me on December 1, 2016 and gave me dismissal letter. He did it without any due process. Catholic Church has what is called Canon Law and each and everyone must follow Canon Law. There is due process and one of them is; if you have any allegation against a priest or a deacon, you must bring it to the notice of the person, give the person what is called fair hearing. In this fair hearing, the person would be able to defend himse but none of these were accorded to me.
“In the letter, he stated that I don’t have proper formation for priesthood; that my theology is lay man’s theology; that I have materialistic tendency. These are what he had against me. “
According to him, the notion that his upbringing in the line of priesthood was inadequate baffled him but he offered to return to any school to study for appropriate qualification despite having done the studies earlier.
“I asked the bishop, Ezeokafor that if my formation is not suitable for him, he should send me back to the seminary and I was ready to start from year one but he refused,” he said.
Rejected, Nwosu said he stayed on the matter and maintained a sustained dotting on the matter for the bishop to reabsorb him and pardon him to no avail.
“ I asked the bishop, Ezeokafor that if my formation is not suitable for him, he should send me back to the seminary and I was ready to start from year one but he refused.
“So I left. When I left, about six bishops were interested for me to come and work in their diocese. He refused. I went to him several times, pleading, kneeling down, he refused.
“All the bishops I had shown my documents and everything said that they were interested in having me in their dioceses. Then I asked the bishop: “can you please release me to go there but he refused.
“One bishop from Cameroun, Bishop of the Diocese of Obala, Cameroun, wrote a letter to him saying that he has seen this deacon and that I have stayed with him and that he would be comfortable having me in his dioceses. He asked: please kindly release him to me let me stay with him him (he showed a copy of the ‘Letter of Intent’ Ref No/1388/K.3.2/SLBM/11/17/atn. from Most. Rev. Sosthene Leopold Bayemi Matjei, Bishop of the Diocese of Obala). But Ezeokafor said no that I am still their deacon,” he said.
He claimed that even as the Catholic Diocese of Awka refused to let him go, he was not treated fairly. “He didn’t give me fair hearing; no right of self defense; no ecumenical due process and the Catholic Church follows due process but I was refused all of that but in obedience, I left. When I left, I tried to join other people.
“After some while, I went to beg him to forgive me in anyway I have offended him but he said no. I asked him what was my sin, what have I done wrong to deserve this treatment? But he couldn’t give me any answer. I continued pleading with him to please forgive me . I went to him again begging and kneeling down for him to allow me to go and meet the bishops who were interested in me but he refused., I still went again to see him with some of his classmates, one is by name, Fr Michael Anozie from Umunze, who is his best friend. But after pleading, he refused. When I noticed that he is no longer listening to my pleas , i was advised to get a Canon lawyer who will write to him and tell him that this is not the way of treating a cleric, a clergy in the Catholic Church. The Canon lawyer wrote to him begging him that he should please look into my case or call people who know better and can handle my case very well but he refused. Instead of Ezeokafor to answer the Canon lawyer, he went behind my back and wrote to Rome without responding to the Canon lawyer. Only God knows what he said about me because I wasn’t there.
That is not the ecumenical way to handle such cases. The right way is when the Canon lawyer has written to him, he will respond but all these, he didn’t do; rather, he went straight to Rome and reported that they should dismiss me. He leveled a lot of allegations against me. Rome responded to him on October 13, 2017, telling him to advise me that I am not capable of being a priest. But Rome on the other side, haven’t heard my own part of the story before responding to Ezeokafor. It was all based on the report he gave to them.
“When we found out that Ezeokafor has reported me to Rome, my Canon lawyer appealed on December 1, 2017. On February 28, 2018, Rome responded, turning away from their initial response that they gave to Bishop Ezeokafor and upheld my status as a deacon of Awka Dioceses, stating that I still remain a Deacon of Awka Dioceses where I was. They also said that they’re not going to force Ezeokafor to ordain me a priest and advised me to go and meet Ezeokafor for a father and son dialogue so that we can resolve the situation. When i received this letter from my Canon lawyer, I was very happy. Then I went to Bishop Ezeokafor to make peace with him. All my pleadings and everything proved abortive. He insisted on saying ‘no’.
“The letter from Rome on the 28th February, 2018, made it clear that I remained incardenated deacon of Awka Dioceses and as an incardenated clergy of a diocese, you have what is called rights and privileges. Right of residence is one of them, right of sustenance – you must provide the person a place to live. You cater for the person’s welfare such as food, health care and allowances to maintain the person’s self. I requested these things but they refused me this for complete five years.
“I was moving like sheep without a shepherd. I was moving like an orphan. I don’t think Pope Francis will be happy hearing that this kind of injustice is being meted out on his priest. I was wandering about whereas there are many houses and parishes where I could wait until final determination of my case. I am not the only priest that has been suspended. If you suspend a cleric, you must provide for him. Suspension is never translated into dismissal.
“To respect him, I decided not to look for admission here in Nigeria. I left Nigeria since he couldn’t provide for me. Every time any group accepted me, my bishop will bring misunderstanding. I went to Amaha, they accepted me and I informed Ezeokafor, he came there and caused a big problem. I went to Kudubru, the bishop there was happy to see me but Ezeokafor spoiled it. Ajentece was interested in me, Ezeokafor came after me. I had to come to him again, knelt down and pleaded. Even if I did something, is my sin beyond the forgiveable? Is my sin beyond redemption? Can’t you give me a chance to change before condemning me since you didn’t give me a chance to let me know what I did and also hear my own side of the story ? I pleaded with him to please set up a neutral committee that I will subject myself to. I said, bring out the allegation, give me opportunity so that this committee will give you report of the whole story but he said no.
“These are the efforts I made for five years. I have other options but I have been suffering this humiliation simply because I want to be priest because it will create more opportunity for me to help the poor in order to carry out the mandate of Pope Francis. In his message called the joy of the gospel, Pope Francis has mandated the church to take care of the poor and these are my mission and what I want to achieve in life. I want to serve God. I want to dedicate my life to God not for self glorification.”
To achieve his clerical mission, especially his bid to serve the poor which according to him, is his call, Nwosu joined a Catholic missionary society in East Africa. ”After I have suffered and been humiliated all the while, I met an institution; a congregation called Missionary of Jesus the Savior, an institute erected and approved in the Diocese of Morogoro in Tanzania. They listened to me. I explained myself to them, told them all the details of my story, gave them the whole documents that was written by Ezeokafor. I gave them everything because I know that if I don’t tell my story any new place I was going or hide anything, it will be a fruad or cheating. I told my story and the Superior of the institute called Bishop Ezeokafor on the phone and told him that I am with them. The Superior and founder discussed my case with the Bishop of Morogoro and after everything, they admitted me into their institute. After staying with them for years, they promoted me into priesthood.
Asked if he was officially excardinated from Awka Diocese before he joined the mission in Tanzania, he said: “I didn’t go back to collect letter of excardination From Ezeokafor because he has repeatedly refused the ones I have requested. He refused the ones other bishops asked from him. He repeatedly said that I am not his Deacon and he proved it by not giving me any right and privileges due to me as a Catholic deacon. After my ordination I called Ezeokafor that I will like to come and see him so as to have a discussion with him but he refused, I called him several times once he heard my voice he would end the call. He went ahead and wrote to the new Nuncio in Tanzania against me and the nuncio contacted the Dioceses of Morogoro . The person in charge of the diocese is an administrator who doesn’t have full powers and after everything the administrator called me and said that Ezeokafor had written things against me to Rome and that he has been ordered to suspend me.
“The administrator of Morogoro wrote the first suspension letter on the 6th June (2020) and sent it to me. Two days later he sent another message on my phone that he has withdrawn that suspension letter and new one will be given to me later. I said: “ok.”
“On Saturday, 1st August, 2020 someone wrote a message to me, telling me that there’s something that’s going on in internet . I asked: “what could that be?” He forwarded it to my phone only for me to see the suspension letter which was supposed to have been given to me in the internet. If you read the letter the date on it was June 14. As I speak to you now, nobody has given me that letter officially and I don’t have a copy of the letter. I didn’t even know that it has been written. No body communicated me. What an injustice. When I saw it has gone viral, I called the administrator and asked him how he posted my suspension letter on the internet. He said he did not do it.
I asked whether anybody from Awka called him because Fides reported that they called Diocese of Morogoro to verify the authenticity of the letter. The administrator told me told me that nobody called him. I am not questioning the authenticity of the letter because I know that such a thing will happen. I asked whether it is how the Catholic Church now operates. I asked the administrator and he said the Nuncio in Tanzania was the one who sent my letter of suspension to the Nuncio in Abuja to give to Bishop Ezeokafor to give me. “
National Light contacted the office of the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Awka, but was told that the call will be returned. As at press time, the call is still being awaited.