Reverend Father Hyacinth Iornem Alia, of the Catholic Diocese of Gboko in Benue State, has been suspended for expressing interest in the state governorship election.
The priest is one of 12 governorship candidates who have purchased All Progressives Congress (APC) expression of interest and nomination forms in order to compete in the party’s primary election.
However, a suspension letter addressed to all priests, religious, and laity of the Catholic Diocese of Gboko, dated May 20, 2022, and signed by the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Gboko, Bishop William Avenya, who is also Apostolic Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Kastina-Ala, indicated that the affected priest had previously been warned in accordance with the church’s partisan politics rule.
“I write to inform you of the suspension of my priest, Rev Fr. Hyacinth Iornem Alia, from public ministry following a series of admonitions to him,” the letter said.
“The mother church does not permit her clerics to engage in partisan politics on their own” (Ex can. 285, 3 CIC). “You are aware that my son, your brother, and your priest have purchased the party’s form to run for governor of Benue State under the All Progressives Congress, which is normally against our vocation,” the letter stated.
“As a result, in order to respond to the church’s spiritual and pastoral needs in the Catholic Diocese of Gboko, I have suspended him from the exercise of sacred ministry.” This canonical suspension begins the moment it is communicated to him and continues until he is free of contumacy.”
Kula Tersoo, Head of Media and Publicity, Alia 2023 Gubernatorial Organization, responded to the suspension by saying it was standard church practice.
According to him, as stated clearly in the letter of suspension, Alia was only suspended from celebrating public Eucharistic masses, but that he is still a priest of the Catholic Church, and that when his tenure in public civil service ends, he will resume his public masses and ministry.
Tersoo stated that his principal is steadfast and urged supporters not to worry because the cleric is well prepared and focused, emphasizing that he has seen the sincerity in the agitations for him to step in and help salvage the situation in the state.
He recalled a former governor of the state, the late Rev. Fr. Moses Orshio Adasu, who served as the state’s second civilian governor, going through the same process.