Biography of +Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke

Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese


His Eminence, Peter Cardinal Okpaleke and his twin brother Paul, of blessed memory, were born on March 1, 1963 to Reuben Ezeuko Okpaleke and Bridget Ekejimma Okpaleke both of blessed memory, of Umuokpalawuzie kindred of Umuocha village, Amesi, Aguata L.G.A of Anambra State. The twins were baptized on April 1, 1963 by Fr. J. Sheehan. The boy Peter spent his early childhood at Uga raised by his maternal grandmother, Evelyn Abiahuaku Ibekwe. He has four surviving siblings.


The young Peter attended Oganiru Primary School Uga (1971-1976); Uga Boys’ Secondary School, Uga (1976-1981), St. John Bosco Seminary Isuaniocha (1982-1983), Bigard Memorial Seminary, Ikot-Ekpene now St. Joseph’s Major Seminary Ikot-Ekpene (1983-1987), Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu (1988-1992), Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA), Port Harcourt (1995-1997), Pontificia Università Della Santa Croce, Rome, Italy, (1999-2002) where he obtained a doctorate degree in Canon Law (First Class Honours). He also has a diploma in Ecclesiastical Administration.


Fr. Peter Okpaleke was ordained a priest on August 22, 1992 by Bishop Simon A. Okafor of blessed memory, then the auxiliary Bishop of Awka. But this journey could be traced back to 1972 when providentially he was ‘conscripted’ to serve at Mass without having ever been an altar server. It was raining heavily that day. The young Peter managed to come with his aunt Patricia Ibekwe. No altar server made it to Mass that morning. Fr. Alfred Edokobi of blessed memory, the celebrant, beckoned on the young Peter, took him to the sacristy and dressed him up in the altar servers’ vestment with the instruction, “if I call you, you come, if I say sit, you sit.” Thereafter, Peter enrolled with the altar servers and derived special joy in serving at the altar.


Fr. Peter Okpaleke spent most of his priestly life in the chancery with breaks in between when he went on post-graduate studies and when he had some stints of pastoral ministry in the parish context. He served as Assistant Secretary to the Bishop (1992-1995); the Awka Diocesan Financial Administrator (1997-1999), the Diocesan Chancellor (2002-2011). As Diocesan Chancellor, he was also the Diocesan Master of Ceremonies and served on many boards, committees and commissions of the Diocese.

Fr. Peter served pastorally as the Assistant Chaplain (1997-1998) and then Chaplain of St. Joseph the Worker Chaplaincy, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka (1998-1999) respectively. He also served as the Administrator of St. Anthony’s parish Nanka from March 2002 - October 2002 and the Parish Priest of Ss. John and Paul Umubele Awka from October 2011 to May 1, 2013.


Fr. Peter Okpaleke was appointed the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara by his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on December 7, 2012. The episcopal ordination took place on May 21, 2013, at Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Owerri, with Archbishop Anthony J.V. Obinna, the Archbishop of Owerri, as the principal consecrator. His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the then Archbishop of Abuja and Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, the then Archbishop of Jos, were the co-consecrators. Because of the opposition, spearheaded by some members of the clergy of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara, Bishop Peter did not take canonical possession of the See and did not exercise episcopal ministry there.

On February 19, 2018, the Holy Father, Pope Francis accepted Bishop Peter’s resignation as the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara. On March 5, 2020, the Holy Father announced the creation of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia (CADEK) and the appointment of Bishop Peter Okpaleke as her first bishop.


The inauguration of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia (CADEK) as well as the installation of Bishop Peter Okpaleke as her first bishop were celebrated on April 29, 2020. Bishop Peter adapted the mission of the Church to the context of CADEK and articulated a vision to guide the execution of his mission with key values and goals for evaluation. These articulations illuminate his ministry and give unity to the many tasks and initiatives being undertaken. As a mission, he challenges the diocesan family to realize that gathered in the power of the Holy Spirit we seek to become more truly God’s family open to encounter and personal relationship with Jesus Christ and with one another, in faithfulness to the Church and the good elements of Igbo culture.

The vision to guide the pursuit of this mission entails discipleship by free personal choice; living out the faith in a vibrant and joyful spirit; engaging the community with gospel-driven choices and actions in order to contribute to the wholeness of God’s people, the healing of our society and of the environment. 

Among the values recommended by Bishop Peter to the Diocesan family are: love and respect for every person, male and female, as God’s children; service, efficiency, integrity and transparency, responsibility and accountability, solid and integral formation across the generations; diligent and pastorally informed planning and decision-making; collaboration. 

In all, Bishop Peter seeks to make it possible for members of the diocesan family to have a living experience of God and to embody the values of His kingdom, (which include love, justice, truth and peace), and to make these shine more brightly in the diocesan family and beyond.

Like a true shepherd and a father, Bishop Peter goes about humbly teaching, encouraging and gathering the flock entrusted to his care. He recognizes that every beginning is a kairos moment – a grace-filled opportunity – to lay a solid foundation for future generations. He engages in grassroots evangelization through a ministry of encounter and listening. He has met and continues to meet different groups in the diocesan family – women, men, young people, students, children, members of pious societies, Catholics in community leadership, etc. Such meetings start with the Eucharistic celebration, an address by the Bishop in which he presents an issue for consideration and reflection. Thereafter, is an interactive session during which he listens to the joys and pains, the hopes and the disappointments and the suggestions of the faithful for more effective pastoral ministry in CADEK.

Bishop Peter’s style of leadership is participatory. All – the clergy, religious and lay faithful – are invited to identify their talents and deploy same for the spread of the Good News and the betterment of the society.


On Sunday, May 29, 2022, Bishop Peter was away on a pastoral visit at St. Patrick’s Parish Nawfija when the announcement of his elevation to the cardinalate with twenty others was made. After the Eucharistic celebration, he was approached by his secretary and the bursar of the episcopal household and greeted as His Eminence. He thought they were joking. But it turned out to be true. The consistory, in which Pope Francis will create them cardinals, is scheduled for August 27, 2022.


His Eminence, Peter Card.-Elect Okpaleke has nine publications (books and monographs). They include: The Administrator of Diocesan Property (2002); A Handbook on the Administration of Parish Property (2002); Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution in the Church (2004); Irregular Unions (Marriages) and Denial of the Reception of Holy Communion (2004); Pastoral Visitation: Towards knowing the significance and necessary preparations (2006); The Role of Deans in Diocesan Apostolate (2008); The Establishment, Competence, Functions and Organization of Diocesan Pastoral Council (2010); I Believe in the Communion of Saints (2011); Consultative Process and not Democracy in the Catholic Church (2012).

A selection of his addresses and speeches as the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia has been edited and published under the title, Thus Says the Lord… There are other addresses yet to be published.

His Eminence Peter Card.-Elect Okpaleke belongs to the Canon Law Society of Nigeria since 1995. He had also served as the Co-ordinator for Research and Publications, Canon Law Society of Nigeria from 2009 to 2013. Currently, he is the Chairman of the Canon Law Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (C.B.C.N) having completed his tenure as the Chairman of the Pontifical Mission Societies  (PMS) of the same Conference.


The Cardinal invites all to focus more on how to grow in an intimate personal relationship with God; to trust in God’s providential care for them; to open themselves to the mercy of God. He recognizes how people’s experiences tend to point them in different directions, including the wrong ones. He, therefore, enjoins on all to be compassionate, to bear one another’s burden (Gal. 6:2), invoke and open themselves to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. In this light, one can understand the underlying convictions behind his episcopal motto: Veni Sancte Spiritus – Come Holy Spirit! – an invocation to the Holy Spirit to fill the hearts of the faithful, transforming and empowering them to commit themselves to the renewal of the face of the earth.