The Spiritual Director of the Adoration Ministry Enugu, Father Ejike Mbaka has shut down the church over the crisis brewing between him and Bishop of Enugu Catholic Diocese, Callistus Onaga.
Father Mbaka, in a statement he personally signed and made available to journalists said that the ministry would be shutdown till June 10, 2021.
Although there were insinuations that the development followed a suspension placed on the Adoration Ministry by the bishop, Mbaka, in the statement, explained that he took the decision because he was embarking on a private prayer ‘retreat for penance and atonement.’
The private prayer for penance and atonement might have been informed by the ‘seven-day fasting and prayer for atonement and reparation’ declared by Onaga in the Enugu Catholic Diocese after Mbaka’s supporters, mostly worshippers at the Adoration Ministry, attacked the Bishop’s Court and the Bishop’s official residence. The attacks had occurred after it was rumoured that Mbaka was abducted and detained in the facility, on May 5.
The irate worshippers had destroyed valuables and property in the residence and also desecrated the holy altar at the diocesan cathedral, and only Mbaka’s timely reappearance stopped them from wreaking more havoc.
Although Mbaka, as a priest of the Catholic Church, is subject to the authority of the bishop and the overall hierarchy of the Catholic Church, he runs the Adoration Ministry as a private worship centre.
Also, from all indications, members of the Adoration Ministry, most often referred to as ‘Adorers,’ only recognise Mbaka’s authority and are not likely to submit to the dictates of the bishop and other authorities of the Catholic Church.
Parts of the statement entitled ‘Notice to all adorers,’ which announced the shutdown of the Adoration Ministry read, “Our Spiritual Director, Rev Fr Ejike Mbaka, wishes to inform his beloved adorers that he has embarked on a private prayer retreat that will end on 10th June 2021.
“Consequently, no ministry activities shall be held in the ministry ground pending his return.
“He directs that members of the ministry are to observe this period of his retreat as they used to do during the usual January breaks of the ministry, by praying at their homes, being charitable and fasting according to their ability.”
The shutdown of the Adoration Ministry appears to be the culmination of events which commenced after Mbaka criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to guarantee security in the country.
Mbaka, who was among Buhari’s strongest supporters in the 2015 and 2019 elections when he described the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate as the country’s messiah, in a recent sermon, said God was angry with the president over his inability to address high level of insecurity in the country.
Reacting, the Presidency tried to cast doubts on Mbaka’s integrity, accusing the cleric of being angry with Buhari because the president refused to give him contacts in return for his support during the 2015 election.
Mbaka also attracted the anger of the Nigerian government and the leadership of the Catholic Church after he expressed support for the leader of the secessionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu.
He later revealed, after his supporters alleged that he was abducted when he was invited to a meeting with the Enugu Catholic bishop, Onaga, that the leadership of the Catholic Church in Enugu planned to keep him away from the public for 30 days, and then send him away to Rome over his comments on Buhari and Kanu.
The temporary closure of the Adoration Ministry is coming about 48 hours after Mbaka apologized for the conduct of his members. He also dismissed the widely held view among members of the Catholic Church that he was not obedient to the leadership of the church.
Authorities of Catholic Church had, on several occasions, warned Mbaka to desist from getting involved in politics. But the priest had continued to wade into politics with highly controversial sermons and prophecies.
“I do not disobey the church, who am I? How can someone who has been serving the church for nearly 26 years come out and begin to fight the same church? Everything in my life is for the church,” Mbaka said while apologising in a sermon on May 9.
The leadership of the Enugu Catholic Diocese has been engaged in a long running ‘battle’ with Mbaka as the church tries to keep the controversial priest in line.
In 2016, Mbaka was transferred out of the Christ the King Parish, GRA, Enugu, where he served for over a decade and had established the Adoration Ministry, to a new post, Our Lady Parish, in Emene, Enugu.
Although the transfer of priests was a normal practice in the Catholic Church, Mbaka and his supporters kicked against the development.
Mbaka said the transfer was a calculated move to make him suffer.
At the time, it was also insinuated that the transfer was aimed at ‘killing’ the Adoration Ministry by removing Mbaka from its location, but the worship centre continued to thrive after the priest moved the Adoration Ground to a new place at Emene, in Enugu.