Papal Nuncio Back Home with Pope's Ruling on Bacani

Star [Philippines]
Downloaded June 14, 2003

Manila, June 14, 2003 By Jose Aravilla (Star) Papal Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Franco arrived at 3 p.m. yesterday bearing Pope John Paul II's decision that would seal the fate of beleaguered Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani, Fr. Gerardo Tapiador, Bacani's deputy in the diocese, told The STAR.

Tapiador said the Papal Nuncio is expected to announce the decision "within a few days." The Papal Nuncio is expected to meet first with the clergy of Novaliches on Monday or Tuesday at the earliest.

"If the clergy of the diocese are called to a meeting, most likely the Vatican decision will be adversarial to Bishop Bacani and he is going to be punished," Tapiador told The STAR. Bacani is accused of sexually harassing his secretary.

"If the Novaliches clergy meets, they need to elect a permanent administrator of the diocese," Tapiador said.

"If the Papal decision is not adversarial, only the complainant will be called by the Nuncio because she is the only one concerned," Tapiador explained.

Earlier, sources had told The STAR that the resignation of Bacani, ostensibly for health reasons, would have been announced sometime this month.

The announcement of Bacani's resignation from the Novaliches diocese would have been followed by another announcement declaring the creation of two more dioceses in Metro Manila.

The office of the Papal Nuncio was closed yesterday for the post-Independence Day holiday.

Meanwhile, Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin has asked the faithful to pray to God for more "good and holy priests" and appealed for "understanding and support" for Filipino priests as the local Catholic Church reels from the latest sex scandal just two months before his retirement.

Monsignor Jesus Raņada, the Catholic Church's appointed spokesman for Bacani, said he was not aware of any report on the arrival of the Papal Nuncio.

Franco left for Italy and Bacani for the US at almost the same time last Monday.

Channel 2's TV Patrol reported yesterday that an investigation into the allegations against Bacani started April 1 and that about 100 people had been interviewed.

The news report said that a decision from the Vatican is expected to be out as early as Sunday. It said that a gag order has been imposed since last Tuesday.

Bacani was forced to sign a letter of resignation, according to the television report. Until the Pope accepts the resignation of a bishop, it does not take effect.

The same report said that the alleged victim is undergoing psychological therapy and that her boyfriend was connected to the office of Monsignor Soc Villegas. Villegas is the Auxiliary Bishop of Manila and known to be close to Sin.

In a statement dated June 12 but was only released yesterday, Sin called on his fellow clergymen to see "purification and conversion" and for the faithful to "assure your priests that you love them, that you will not abandon them and that you will always pray for them."

The latest scandal was triggered by the allegations of a former employee that Bacani had sexually harassed her. Bacani has denied the allegations and issued an open letter that said he was "deeply sorry for the consequences of any inappropriate expression of affection to my secretary."

However, Bacani's spokesman has denied he is guilty.

Sin said in the statement that June 22 to 29 should be a "week of prayer for the sanctification of priests."

"To my beloved priests, let this period be a moment of purification and conversion," Sin said.

"Let us pray for Bishop Ted Bacani. Let us pray for those who have been hurt by this incident. May the truth and charity that come from God prevail," said Sin, who turns 75 at the end of August, the retirement age for priests.

Sin said the issue "has been stretched beyond proportions" by the media, adding that while it was necessary to seek the truth, "the law of charity must prevail at all times."

He did not say if he believed Bacani was guilty or innocent.

President Arroyo had earlier urged the public to stop "feasting" on the issue while church leaders have urged people not to rush to judgment.

The local Catholic Church last year publicly apologized for sexual abuses committed by Filipino priests, but insisted that a majority of clergymen remained faithful to their vows.

The Church also admitted that some 200 priests had been investigated for sexual misconduct over the past 20 years. Some of them were dismissed, while most resigned voluntarily. - With AFP report


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