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Pioneer Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Most Revd (Dr) Gabriel Ghiakhomo Dunia, has said that being bishop is the highest level of carrying the cross. In this interview with Daily Sun, he said, 'the people of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi have been surprised by the power of God to move His people to work.

'Bishopric in the Catholic Church is not easy. It is the number one level of carrying the cross. Bishopric means to be able to carry the cross, to shepherd the people and in obedience to the will of God.

That is not easy when people want you to do their will, thinking that you have come to bring earthly kingdom like the Jews during Jesus' time. They felt He was coming to bring earthly kingdom - human liberation.

'The number one thing is the spiritual liberation. To bring the kingdom of God to man and by so doing, man also, will be humanly free to serve God according to the will of God.'

'There are challenges. You know that when the diocese was created and I was appointed the first bishop, there were no structures on ground. We didn't have anywhere to operate from. No Bishop's House, no structures, we had to move around. Eventually, we started the Bishop's House, which is now the secretariat of the diocese.

There was also the challenge of lack of priests and the ones we had were also challenged with the rural state of the diocese. If you transfer some people to certain areas, even though the entire diocese is a rural area, they felt bad as if you do not like them. It is a very challenging situation to be faced with absence of structures, both human and physical.

Things you used to do as a priest that you can't do now as a bishop

'The things I used to do as a priest such as sitting down in a particular place to attend to the people throughout the day, have been overtaken by both national and international responsibilities. Nowadays, I have to attend to numerous issues instead of sitting down at home, attending to local issues and fulfilling the local obligations. I have to divide my time attending local, national and international issues.'

Between being a priest and a bishop
'If I have to retire now that I am still strong, I would just gladly remain to attend to the people at the grassroots even though as a diocesan bishop in a rural area, I still find myself working at the grassroots. But it would have been much more of a grassroots work if I were a parish priest, though in a restricted level.'

Catholic Diocese of Auchi
'The diocese has fared very well. You can see that by the grace of God and through the efforts of well-spirited people, we have been able to put up a befitting Bishop's House, the Cathedral, a minor seminary now in the second year, and we have acquired a vast expanse of land of about 11 hectares, walled round with some structures under construction and some about to be completed. More parishes and Mass Centers have been opened with some coming up.

'Many priests have been ordained. Those I ordained are more than the priests that were ordained before the creation of the diocese. We still have more to be ordained before this year elapses. We have also been able to send many of our priests for further studies, within and outside Nigeria. God has been so wonderful.'

'There are very few individuals who normally indicate their wiliness to sponsor one project. Even the Pastoral Center, an individual has principally sponsored the guesthouse which has about 47 chalets. The retired priests home that we are also putting in place has been principally funded through the little money we get from friends and well-wishers coupled with the little grants we also get. Each time we expend the funds, we wait and ask for more. So, the lay faithful have been magnanimous, cooperating with us in this regard.'

'I am satisfied because God has enabled us to do much and there is not an end to our pursuit. We can always improve on what God has enabled us to do, while making efforts to initiate new things. God has been great in the past seven years.'

If you come back to this world , would you still be a priest?

'It is like asking me, will you still do the will of God? If it is the will of God that one has to be created twice and come into the world and it is also His will that the person should do the same work God has previously assigned to him, then we should always do the will of God. I will gladly be a priest with all pleasure.'