Pope Francis has sworn in Peter Okpaleke, Catholic bishop of Ekwulobia, Anambra state, as a cardinal.
The swearing in took place on Saturday at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.
The college of cardinals is a body of senior priests who support the pope in overseeing the affairs of the church, and they also vote during papal elections.
Okpaleke who is among the 20 new cardinals of the church is one of two African bishops and the only Nigerian sworn in.
The new cardinals are an addition to the college of cardinals which has now grown from 208 to 229.
Prior to being appointed as cardinal, Okpaleke resigned as bishop from the Ahiara diocese in Imo state after being rejected because he was not an indigene.
Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), was in attendance at the ceremony.
While congratulating Okpaleke, Obi said he has remained a blessing to the church and the country.
In a post on Twitter, Obi wrote: “I rejoice with His Eminence, Peter Cardinal Okpaleke as he canonically receives the Red Hat from His Holiness, Pope Francis at a Consistory in Rome today, by which function, he has become a fully fledged Prince of the Universal Church.
“He has remained a blessing to not just the church in Nigeria, but the universal church. His patience, understanding and wide perspectives on issues remain some of his valuable assets that have continued to propel him higher in the priestly vocation.”
Charles Soludo, Anambra governor, who was also present at the ceremony, said it is a special day for his state.
“Those of us from Anambra have come to celebrate with him and welcome him as he receives the red hat,” Soludo said.
Others present include Anambra governor’s wife, Nonye Soludo; Senator Ifeanyi Ubah representing Anambra South; Senator Victor Umeh, the Candidate of Labour Party in Anambra Central; Senator Uche Ekwunife; Rt. Hon Uchenna Okafor, Speaker Anambra House of Assembly; Nonso Okpala, MD/CEO of VFD Group; Ichie Sunday Ezeobiora; Chief Sir Joseph Ezeokafor of Jezco Group; Chief Ikenna Okafor (Ide Akwaeze); Mr Robert Umeozulu; and Mrs. Obby Okwubanego.
The men of God also came in their numbers from His Grace, Archbishop Val Okeke, the Metropolitan See of Onitsha; His Lordship Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor of Awka Diocese; His Lordship, Bishop Martin Uzoukwu of Minna Diocese; His Lordship, Bishop Anselm Umoren of Abuja Archdiocese; and many more.
Cardinal Ebere Opaleke is the fifth cardinal from Nigeria — others are Dominic Ekandem (now late), John Onaiyekan, Anthony Okogie and Francis Arinze.
Okpaleke, is from Amesi, Aguata Local Government Area, and is the pioneer Bishop of Ekwulobia Catholic Diocese.