- The controversy surrounding Reverend Father Hycainth Alia’s declaration of ambition to run for Governor 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 opined that it is not right for an ordained priest to challenge political office.
A Catholic priest, Reverend Father Anthony Azuwike, pointed out that a priest in the Catholic Church who has taken the oath of Catholic allegiance to serve the church is not allowed to run for political office and that he shouldn’t be partisan.
Azuwike who is also a lawyer was reacting to the suspension of the Catholic priest Benue, the Reverend Father Hyacinthe Alia by the bishop of the Catholic diocese of Gboko, the very Reverend William Avenya.
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Remind that Legit.ng reported that Father Alia was suspended after he said he was running for the 2023 gubernatorial 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 sacred ministry will become effective after the letter is delivered to him. The Bishop further clarified that the suspension had become imperative due to the law of the Catholic Church which states that its priest must not be partisan.
The Bishop said the Reverend Father’s decision to seek political office went against the priestly vocation, hence his suspension.
Despite the suspended priest’s assertion that the bishop’s action was normal practice in the Catholic Church, some Nigerians criticized the church for its decision, saying that Benue had had a governor who was a priest before (Rev Father Moses Adasu), asking why it’s different.
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Father Azuwicke reacts
But in his own reaction, while addressing a congregation at St. Mathews Catholic Church, Ushafa, Abuja, on Sunday, Reverend Father Azuwike clarified that any Catholic priest who immersed himself in politics would have breached the canon law. Legit.ng was monitoring his position.
The priest argued that by taking the oath as a priest, there was a question as to whether he would remain loyal and faithful to Catholic laws. He said that in accepting that loyalty, getting into politics or being partisan means crossing the line.
A priest is charged with being the father of all – Azuwike
According to him, a priest accused of being the father of all members of the church should not join a political party because it would imply that he is for a section of the church because of his political orientation.
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There should be no confusion in Bishop’s decision – Azuwicke
Emphasizing that there should be no confusion in the Bishop’s action, he said:
“I know some of you will say why would you stop a Reverend Father from running for office, but we are not allowed to do politics. Because if you do that, you cross 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 APC or PDP. Your job is to be a peacemaker. Engage people in dialogue so that peace reigns.
“Canon law is against priests running for political office because you have many people of different political ideologies serving God in your church. You must be with them all. You divide the body of Christ which is the church by joining a political party. What happens to members of the other party in your church? “
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He urged members and priests to stay on track, believing that by staying on track and contributing with your own quota, things can improve.
What 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 Roman Catholic law that prevents priests from doing anything improper or alien to the clerical state.
The law prohibits diocesan priests and bishops from holding public office.