FOR not yielding to their call for “indigenisation of worship process” in the Catholic Church, the Bini at the weekend called for removal of Archbishop Augustine Akubeze of the Benin Metropolitan See.
They accused the archbishop of handling the affairs of the church contrary to the Papal policy of promoting indigenous language and customs of the people, which they said, the Roman Catholic Church leadership believed, would lead to winning more converts into the church.
Addressing a press conference in Benin City, the Iyase of Benin Kingdom, Sam Igbe, who spoke on behalf of the Edo Liturgical Group, said there was a deliberate attempt to ostracise Bini-speaking priests from the scheme of things by sending them abroad in the guise of training and replacing them with non-Bini priests.
While canvassing that a Bini Catholic priest should be installed as archbishop of the dioceses, Igbe said the Bini could no longer tolerate a missionary that is not ready to listen to the voice of the people and Papal directives on indigenous worship, alleging that of the 832 weekday masses in a year, only 12 are conducted in Edo language.
“We have come to the inevitable decision that Akubeze cannot justifiably continue to remain as a shepherd of the Catholic Church in Benin, a people on which he was forced and from whom he has so effectively distanced himself in a manner akin to the attitude of a maximum ruler.
“Our people want him transferred from Benin and until the church heeds this advice, it would amount to self-deception to continue to believe that they have an effective prelate in Benin. We make bold to say that Akubeze, as a pastor, is not close to the people of Benin; he is not a father or brother but a detached ruler. He is not meek, patient and merciful. He is a complete antithesis of these required qualities.”
They also alleged Akubeze’s disrespect to the Benin monarch by, according to them, locking the door against some Bini chiefs sent on a reconciliatory and peaceful mission by the Oba when he was installed as the archbishop of Benin Diocese. “Because Archbishop Akubeze has exhibited hatred for the people of Bini and their language, he has to go and a Bini priest has to be installed archbishop of our diocese,” they noted.
The Guardian could not get any official response from the Catholic Bishop’s Court yesterday, but it would be recalled that some priests of Bini extraction in the archdiocese, a few weeks ago, differed from the position of the Edo Liturgical Group over allegation of discrimination against the use of Edo language in the Catholic churches.
Chairman of the Indigenous Catholic Bini Priests, Rev. Fr. Felix Igbineweka, at a press briefing, said Archbishop Akubeze, since his installation in the past two years, had demonstrated openness in all his dealings.
The indigenous priests urged the aggrieved liturgical group and laities to toe the path of dialogue and peace, noting that Akubeze remains the spiritual head and father of the faith in the archdiocese.
“The church has always acknowledged the manifold gifts of the people of God to be utilised in carrying out her divine mandate. However, this should be done within the structures and strategies of the church with reference to the hierarchy,” they noted.