The Local Ordinary of the Catholic Diocese of Port Harcourt, Most Rev. Camillus A. Etokudoh, on Friday, April 26, 2019, told Catholic Link that there is no special training to become a Catholic Bishop. It is a higher call with challenges that calls for constant prayers. I requested for an Auxiliary Bishop and Msgr. Patrick Eluke was chosen.
Bishop Etokudoh explained that Bishops perform the role of sanctifying, teaching and governing. “The priests are chosen from among men and no one takes the honour upon himself. Any priest can be elevated to the office of the Bishop if his record shows that he has not committed greater fault that can disqualify him. When you become a Bishop, you become the first among equals”, he said.
He recalled that Port Harcourt Diocese was created on May 16, 1961 as a result of the efforts of the missionaries in the evangelization of Ikwerre, Ogba, Egbema, Ogoni, Kalabari, Etche and the eastern part of Ijaw land.
The Prelate listed Most Rev. Godfrey Mary Paul Okoye CSSp, as the pioneer Bishop of Port Harcourt (1961-1967), the Apostolic Administrator, Most Rev. Dominic Ekandem (1970-1974), Most Rev. Edmund Fitzgibbon SPS (1974-1992), Most Rev. Alexius Obabu Makozi (1992-2009) and their numerous achievements in the Diocese.
Bishop Etokudoh who was appointed Bishop of Port Harcourt Diocese on Monday May 4, 2009 and installed on Saturday July 25, 2009 explained that his request for an Auxiliary Bishop was in appreciation to the rapid growth of the Catholic faith in the Diocese and recalled that more Deaneries and Parishes were recently created.
“A Bishop could request for two or three auxiliaries depending on the pastoral works of the Diocese. We are increasing in number of Priests, Deaneries and Parishes and we are expecting that a new Diocese be carved out soon. I am not getting younger. I have to prepare the ground for whoever will succeed me. I requested and Msgr. Patrick Eluke was chosen to assist me in the pastoral work of the Diocese”.
He said that the Diocese has come of age (58 years) with many priests. “It took the Diocese some years to produce Very Rev. Msgr. Charles Agu (1973) and Very Rev. Fr. Joseph Kabari (1974) after the ordination of Very Rev Msgr. Peter Ohochukwu and Very Rev. Msgr. (Prof.) Festus Okafor (1963). Port Harcourt Diocese is said to be an old but young Diocese”.
The Diocesan Bishop stated that Very Rev. Msgr. Patrick Eluke, ordained priest in 1995 possesses Episcopal character as an Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese. “The Auxiliary Bishop has the Episcopal character. It is a representative basis. We have two Bishops in the Diocese doing the same thing at different times. He has not achieved anything but was counted worthy, not on merit. What is needed is togetherness.
He is ordained and consecrated in the Diocese so he will live in the Diocese and be buried at the Cathedral as a Bishop when he dies. He hasn’t the right to succeed automatically, he has to undergo screening. A coadjutor is the one who has the right to succeed. An Auxiliary Bishop can succeed but it takes another process and more names would be added on the request list”.
Bishop Etokudoh stressed that priesthood is one and enjoined the Auxiliary Bishop to adhere to his motto and be a sign of peace to his brother priests and the laity of the Diocese. He will be a sign of unity, promote what will help us and not what will divide us. Priests are equal. A Bishop is higher in rank and not in ordination. Follow your motto”, he advised him.
“Carry you cross daily. It is not an easy mission but put your trust in the infallible God. A Bishop would always pray at all times. Pray the serenity prayer. That God will give you the grace to change what you can change and to accept what you cannot change”.