Pope Francis at the Vatican enthrones Nigerian Catholic Bishop, Peter Eberechukwu Okpaleke, as a cardinal priest, yesterday 27 August 2022.

The 59 year-old Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese in Nigeria is among the 21 recent appointees of the Pope to the position. However, only 20 of the new cardinalates were created yesterday, as one nominee asked to be exempted.

The Church hierarchy indicated that 16 of the new cardinals qualify to join electors in future to choose a successor to the current Pontiff.

This is because five of the appointees are over the voting age limit of 80. As they probably have retired, their new titles would be merely honorary.

Cover picture shows Peter Cardinal Okpaleke of Nigeria kneeling before Pope Francis to receive his accoutrements.

These include his biretta, cardinal’s ring and assignment of a “titular” church in Rome, making him part of the Roman clergy.

His titular Church in Rome is the Ss. Martiri dell’Uganda a Poggio Ameno.

Cardinals are princes of the Church who, as members of the Sacred College of Cardinals, meet in conclave to elect a new pope.

They are principal counselors and aides who assist the Pope to manage the government of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide.

The Pontiff announced 21 cardinals in May but formally enthroned 20 yesterday, 27 August 2022, at the Consistory in Rome.

These appointments mark a strategic change in the Church hierarchy and position his appointees to influence who succeeds the current Pontiff. His eligible appointees make up 63 percent of electors at the next conclave.

Prominent citizens of Anambra and Nigeria witnessed his formal enthronement yesterday in Rome.

Among those sighted in the congregation were presidential aspirant Peter Obi, Anambra Governor Charles Soludo and Senator Uche Ekwunife.

About the new Cardinal

Pope enthrones Okpaleke as Cardinal

He was born Peter Ebere Okpaleke on 1 March 1963 at Amesi in Nigeria’s Anambra State.

Young Peter Okpaleke attended local schools in his native Amesi until 1983 when he enrolled in the Bigard Memorial Major Seminary in Ikot-Ekpene and Enugu.

At Bigard, he successfully completed his philosophy and theology training and became a priest of the Diocese of Awka on 22 August 1990.

In his faith journey, he served as a university chaplain, parish priest, diocesan finance administrator, diocesan chancellor, and secretary and member of diocesan boards.

Okpaleke subsequently studied canon law in Rome at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

The Pope appointed him Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese after formally resigning as Bishop of Ahiara Diocese in Imo State.

He formally resumed in the new Diocese after his installation as Bishop on 29 April 2020.

At Ahiara, he faced stiff opposition from indigenous clergy and adherents who preferred an indigenous Bishop appointed for their diocese.

Pope Francis approved a new Diocese at Ekwulobia, carved out of Awka Diocese, with Okpaleke as pioneer Bishop.

Pope enthrones Okpaleke as Cardinal