By Leslie Ann Aquino
“Healing priest” Father Fernando Suarez was found not guilty of the sexual abuse of minors.
Bishop Antonio Tobias, judicial vicar of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CPCP) National Tribunal Appeals, informed the priest of this development in a decree of notification dated Jan. 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,” the notification reads.
“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.
“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.”
A copy of the Decree of Notification was posted by the Missionaries of Mary Mother of the Poor (MMMP), which was founded by Suarez, on their Facebook page on Jan. 10.
Last year, Suarez was also in the news when several prelates banned him from their respective dioceses.
In a circular letter dated Oct. 30, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said the founder of the MMMP and priests from the 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 Catholic priests, or former Catholic priests who were suspended.
Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan also banned Suarez from conducting activities in his diocese.
“We asked their group to secure a ‘celebret’ or an endorsement from his bishop so we can allow him to celebrate Mass and [do] healing. But we have not received it,” he said in a CBCP News post.
Based on his memorandum dated Oct. 7, Cabantan said any priest who wishes to say Mass in a church other the one to which he is attached must present an endorsement letter, also called a ‘celebret,’ from his bishop or superior before he can lawfully celebrate the Eucharist as provided by canon law.