Some Nigerians have hailed Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, Catholic Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese in Anambra State on his appointment as a Cardinal by His Holiness, Pope Francis. Among these Nigerians is Prof. Charles Soludo, Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra State, Senators Annie Okonkwo, Uche Ekwunife and Dr. Orji Kalu, former Governor of Abia State. Gov. Soludo described the elevation as a befitting reward for the Bishop who over the years has shown exemplary conduct in the service of God through great personal sacrifices and outstanding contributions to ecumenical services in the Church. On behalf of the Government and good people of Anambra State, Governor Soludo prayed God to grant Bishop Okpalaeke more strength, sound health and wisdom to excel in his new assignment in the vineyard of God.
Also congratulating the Prelate, Mr. Peter Obi described Bishop Okpaleke as an impactful teacher, devoted priest, administrator, as he noted that the Bishop had always been guided by hard work, godliness and the passion for the good. Stating that it exemplifies the summit of Christian living, Obi prayed to God to always bless Bishop Okpaleke with the health of mind and body so that he would continue to serve the Universal Church and the people according to God’s wishes, as he enjoined the Bishop to continue remembering Nigeria in his prayers. Senator Annie Okonkwo who also congratulated the Cardinal-elect stated that the appointment was well deserved, as he added that Bishop Okpalaeke is one of the most respected Catholic Bishops in Nigeria, who has contributed immensely to the growth of the Catholic community.
In his congratulatory message, Senator Ekwunife described Bishop Okpaleke’s appointment as a confirmation of his humility, fidelity and commitment to the Catholic Church, noting that the appointment is providential and most exciting considering the fact that Bishop Okpaleke stood firm to his belief in the Catholic Church during the time of trial. The Senator prayed God to strengthen him and give him the wisdom and grace to succeed. In his goodwill message, former Governor Kalu stated that the respected Bishop has contributed immensely to the growth of the Catholic Community and Christianity in general. Stating that the elevation will strengthen the Bishop; Kalu urged him to sustain his exemplary leadership qualities. Pope Francis on Sunday, May 29, 2022 named Bishop Okpaleke and 20 others as Cardinals of the Church. He becomes the fifth Cardinal from Nigeria.
Others before him are John Cardinnal Onaiyekan, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, Francis Cardinal Arinze and late Cardinal Dominic Ekandem. His investiture comes up on 27 August, 2022 at the Vatican. Bishop Okpaleke was born on March 1, 1963 in Amesi, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. He attended local schools, and in 1983 entered the Bigard Memorial Major Seminary in Ikot Ekpene and Enugu, where he studied philosophy and theology from 1983 to 1992. He also studied Canon law in Rome at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Awka on August 22, 1990. On December 7, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Bishop of Ahiara, Imo State. He was consecrated as a Bishop on May 21, 2013, but there was opposition to his appointment on the basis that he was not of the area’s Mbaise ethnic origin. The Pope however insisted. On February 19, 2018, Pope Francis accepted Okpaleke’s resignation as Bishop of Ahiara, but on March 5, 2020, Pope Francis appointed Okpaleke the Bishop of the Diocese of Ekwulobia which is a newly created Diocese in Anambra State. He was installed there on April 29, 2020 and served in that position until his recent appointment as a Cardinal by Pope Francis.