The Catholic diocese of Gboko, Benue state, has suspended Hyacinth Alia, one of its priests, for joining the 2023 governorship race.
Alia had, in April 2022, declared his intention to contest the 2023 governorship election in Benue state on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He had also submitted his nomination and expression of interest forms earlier in May.
Speaking at a media briefing on May 11, Alia had said his mission was to ensure that government continues to priorotise the needs of residents.
“Benue is broken enough and it’s time to fix it. I joined partisan politics to salvage the state from collapse,” he had said at the roll-out of his seven-point agenda for the state.
But in a letter dated May 20, 2022, and addressed to priests and members of the congregation, William Avenya, bishop of the Catholic diocese of Gboko, said the canon law of the Catholic church forbids its clerics from being involved in partisan politics.
Avenya said Alia has been barred from public ministry until “he ceases from contumacy”, adding that the priest had been admonished severally before the action was taken.
“I write to communicate to you the suspension of my priest, Revd. Fr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia, from public ministry after series of admonitions to him Ex can. 1371, 2° CIC,” the statement reads.
“The Mother Church does not allow her clerics to get involved in partisan politics on their own Ex Can. 285, 3 CIC.
“You are aware that my son, your brother and your priest, has purchased the party forms to
contest for the Office of the Governor of Benue State under the All Progressives Congress (APC), which is totally against our vocation.
“Therefore, to respond to the spiritual and pastoral needs of the Church in the Catholic Diocese of Gboko, I have suspended him from the exercise of sacred ministry.
“This canonical suspension takes effect from the moment it is communicated to him and lasts until he ceases from contumacy.”
Section 1371(2) of the Code of Canon Law provides for sanctions for “a person who otherwise does not obey a legitimate precept or prohibition of the Apostolic See, an ordinary, or a superior and who persists in disobedience after a warning”.
Meanwhile, Section 285(3) of the Code of Canon Law also states that “clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power.”