By John Ugo, Awka

The Anambra State government has extolled the virtues of the Catholic Bishop of Nnewi, His Grace, Most Rev. Hilary Odili Paul Okeke, as he retires as the diocesan bishop on the attainment of the mandatory retirement age of 75 years.

Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. Don C Adinuba in a statement made available to newsmen in Awka said, “Bishop Okeke’s leadership of the Nnewi Diocese for 21 years is nothing other than inspiring and exemplary.

This was even as the out-going Governor Willie Obiano noted “that the Nnewi Diocese could not have been luckier with the appointment of Bishop Okoye, who is well known in Anambra as an effective religious shepherd.

According to Obiano, “He (Okeke) cares about both the soul and the welfare of the people, which makes him a balanced and realistic spiritual leader,” just as the state

Also, the Governor-elect, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, congratulated Bishop Okeke on what he called his exceptional leadership of the Nnewi Diocese “for over 20 years.

“He towers in intellect as in spirituality, leadership, research and writing.

“His colleagues and students still speak wonderfully of his tenure as the head of the Department of Canon Law at the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, an affiliate of the University of Calabar.”

However, according to Adinuba, “The Holy Spirit must have been involved directly in his selection as the first bishop of the newly created diocese, for he took the diocese to unexpected heights in every field within a short period.”

Adinuba further applauded Bishop Okeke for not only growing the church under his care exponentially but also building schools and impressive health facilities, in addition to turning himself into an angel of peace and progress.

“He has over the years demonstrated eloquently that the church is to serve both God and society,” he added, just as he commended the bishop for his humility and eagerness to carry out every duty he was given since his ordination on April 20, 1974, regardless of the obvious difficulties.

The statement further read, “Shortly after his ordination by Cardinal Francis Arinze, who was then the Archbishop of Onitsha, he was sent to a town in Ogbaru Local Area to serve as both priest and a secondary school teacher when the town had no such basic amenities as pipe-borne water, tarred roads and public power supply.

“Still, he worked with tremendous cheer and inspired an almost countless number of people in the new secondary school and in his parish.”

According to Adinuba, the bishop’s personal virtues coupled with his outstanding brilliance enabled him to become the first member of his class to become a papal chamberlain, a vicar general and, ultimately, a bishop.

He further described Okeke as an internationally recognized canon lawyer and author, noting also that it was a thing of joy that Dr Okeke had been succeeded by Bishop Jonas Benson-Okoye, the Auxiliary Bishop of Awka Diocese, whom he called “another brilliant canonist, theologian, philosopher and educationist.”


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