Controversial “healing priest” Father Fernando Suarez can exercise his ministry again after the Vatican found him “not guilty” of sexual abuse accusations, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said yesterday.
Bishop Antonio Tobias, judicial vicar of the CBCP National Tribunal Appeals, informed the priest of the “not guilty” verdict of his case in a decree of notification dated January 6, 2020.
“By order of the Most Rev. Giacomo Morandi, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Titular Archbishop of Cerveteri, in his letter of December 13, 2019—I was instructed to notify the Rev. Fr. Fernando M. Suarez of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose de Occidental Mindoro of the decree of ‘not guilty’ of the accusation lodged against him of sexual abuse of minors which this National Tribunal of Appeals submitted to Rome on May 8, 2019,” read the notification.
“This means that he has been falsely accused of these crimes and, therefore, nothing now stands in the way for him to exercise his healing ministry, provided it is done properly in coordination with the ecclesiastical authority of every ecclesiastical jurisdiction,” it further read.
“We hereby also inform of this development all those concerned, especially the Most. Rev Archbishops and Bishops of the Philippines and wherever Fr. Fernando Suarez is permitted to minister,” the notification read.
A copy of the Decree of Notification was posted by the Missionaries of Mary Mother of the Poor, which was founded by Suarez, on their Facebook page on January 10.
Last year, Suarez was also in the news when several prelates banned him from their respective dioceses.
In a circular letter dated October 30, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said the founder of the MMMP and the priests from the said group are banned from celebrating the Holy Eucharist and administering the sacraments in his diocese until all the cases or allegations hurled against them are cleared.
He said they received several complaints against the group and other “priests” whom their parishioners found out to be non-Roman Carholic priests or former Catholic priests who were suspended.
Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan also banned Suarez from doing his activities in his diocese.
“We ask their group to secure a ‘celebret’ or an endorsement from his bishop so we can allow him to celebrate Mass and does healing. But we have not received it,” he said in a CBCP News post.
Based on his Memorandum dated October 7, Cabantan said any priest who wishes to say Mass in a church other the one that he is attached must present an endorsement letter or popularly called today as “celebret” from his bishop or superior before he can lawfully celebrate the Eucharist as provided by Canon Law. (Leslie Ann Aquino)