- The controversy surrounding the declaration of Reverend Father Hycainth Alia's ambition to contest for the governorship seat of Benue state has become a hot topic
- Many religious critics believe it is not appropriate for an ordained and anointed priest to be partisan
- However, a fellow priest in the catholic church was of the opinion that it is not right for an ordained priest to contest political office
A Catholic priest, Rev. Father Anthony Azuwike, has stressed that a priest of the catholic church who took the catholic oath of allegiance to serve the church is not allowed to run for a political office and he is not expected to be partisan.
Azuwike who is also a lawyer was reacting to the suspension of the Benue Catholic priest, Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia by the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Gboko, the Most Reverend William Avenya.
Recall that Legit.ng reported that Father Alia was suspended after he declared to run in the 2023 governorship election under the All Progressives Congress, APC. The priest has since obtained his Nomination and Expression of Interest forms
In the letter suspending Alia, the Bishop said his suspension from the sacred ministry becomes effective after the letter was handed over to him. The bishop further clarified that the suspension became imperative due to the law of the Catholic Church that says its priest must not be partisan.
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The bishop said that the decision of the Reverend Father to run for a political office was against the priesthood vocation, hence his suspension.
Despite the affirmation by the suspended priest that the action of the bishop was a normal practice in the Catholic Church, some Nigerians have criticized the church for its decision, saying Benue has had a Governor who was a priest before (Rev. Father Moses Adasu), asking why this is different.
Father Azuwike reacts
But in his own reaction, while addressing a congregation at St. Mathews Catholic Church, Ushafa, Abuja, on Sunday, Rev. Father Azuwike clarified that any catholic priest who delved into politics is said to have gone contrary to the canon law. Legit.ng monitored his position.
The priest argued that while taking the oath as a priest, one is asked whether he would remain loyal and faithful to the catholic laws. He said upon acceptance of this loyalty, delving into politics or being partisan means that one is crossing the line.
A priest is charged to be father to all - Azuwike
According to him, a priest who has been charged to be a father to all members of the church is not expected to join a political party as that would imply that he is for a section of the church because of his political leaning.
There should be no confusion in Bishop’s decision - Azuwike
Stressing that there should be no confusion in the action of the bishop, he said:
“I know some of you will say why would they stop a Reverend Father from contesting in an election, but we are not allowed to go into politics. Because if you do that, you are crossing the line. As a priest, you can drop a political opinion but you are not supposed to be partisan. You are not supposed to be for either APC or PDP. Your job is to be a peacemaker. Engage people in dialogue for peace to reign.
“The canon law is against priests running for political offices because you have many people of different political ideologies serving God in your church. You must stand with all of them. You are dividing the body of Christ which is the church by joining a political party. What happens to the members of the other party in your church? “
He admonished members and priests to stay on their lane, believing that by staying on one’s lane and contributing one’s own quota that things can get better.
What the canon law says
Canon law is the internal religious law that guides the Catholic Church, and other similar churches.
Canon 285 of the 1983 Codex Iuris Canonici is a law by the Roman Catholic that stops priests from doing anything unbecoming or foreign to the clerical state.
The law prohibits diocesan priests and bishops from taking up public offices.
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