A Nigerian bishop whom Pope Francis had fiercely defended has resigned after a five-year, sometimes violent, standoff with rebel priests and faithful who rejected him as an ethnic outsider, the Vatican said on Monday.

The case of the Vatican versus the people of the diocese of Ahiara in southwestern Nigeria had become a rare battle of wills that tested the power of papal authority and could set a precedent for future appointments.

A Vatican statement said the pope had accepted the resignation of Peter Ebere Okpaleke as bishop of the diocese of Ahiara. It said the position had been declared vacant and that a papal administrator would run it for the time being.

Many priests and faithful had refused to swear allegiance to Okpaleke because he is not from Mbaise, a heavily Catholic area in southwestern Nigeria made up of an amalgam of indigenous clans connected by intermarriage.

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