BISHOP Patricio Buzon of the Diocese of Bacolod said that St. John’s Institute (SJI), also known as Hua Ming, is not a Catholic school anymore.

Buzon, in a press conference Thursday, May 11 at the Bishop’s House, said this is because the Diocese will be pulling out its ministry from the school.

Hua Ming has always been a Catholic school because of the presence of the priests and being the evangelizing arm of the parish, he said.

“In Canon Law, the final determiner of a Catholic school is the recognition of the church and the Bishop...Now, with the parish out and the priests in Hua Ming out, its status as a Catholic school is removed,” Buzon said.

There’s an ongoing controversy involving the ownership of the property on which the Queen of Peace Church stands.

The school administration is also appealing to the bishop to revert the church from its present status as a territorial parish to a personal parish.

After a series of negotiations to resolve the rift, the Diocese and Hua Ming have agreed to pursue a peaceful disengagement of relationship that will end by May 31.

“We never intend to leave Hua Ming. We are being sent out,” Buzon said.

‘Private structure’

In Buzon’s Circular Letter No. 2017-008, which was read during the press conference, he said that he issued a decree, removing Queen of Peace of Parish from its status for three reasons.

“First, it has ceased to be a parish church and a shrine. It has ceased to be school chapel, and being under the control of a private group, it is, for all intents and purposes, simply be considered as private structure or building. This means that the Blessed Sacrament will be removed from the church and the celebration of masses and the sacraments will not be allowed therein at anytime,” the Bishop said.

“Because of the pull out, no priest or religious congregation is to be assigned at SJI. No masses will be held inside the campus for the duration of an indefinite moratorium, subject to the prudent determination of the Bishop. Confirmation and First Communion Masses will be allowed among students upon request, but it will be held in a parish church outside of Hua Ming,” Buzon added.

Request for mass

Buzon said there’s a protocol to be followed if the school wants to hold masses for its students as there are no priests anymore at Hua Ming.

Those who request for masses must course it to the parish for permission and then the parish will bring it to the Chancellery for the approval of the Bishop, he said, adding that the same rule applies to Hua Ming.

“So, if there is a request for mass, they may be allowed to have mass for the school, but not inside the school. Definitely, not inside the church because that is already close. If they want, they go to the parish. This is for indefinite period of time. The purpose of this is something pedagogical because we do not want this structure of the church to be used as a political tool, to be used by others so that there is still a semblance of Chinese-Apostolate school,” he said.

Moreover, Buzon assured the public that the parish will continue sans the structure.

“In Canon Law, normally the parish is supposed to be in a territory but the Canon Law also says that the parish is primary a community,” he said.

He said they already assured the parishioners that the community will “remain intact” and that the programs and scholarships will continue.

“Nothing changes, it’s just that we are out of the structure,” he added.

He said they are still trying to “explore” the possibilities on where they can transfer the parish.

Asked what will happen to SJI’s curriculum on religious studies, Buzon said that the school can still invite priests for the spiritual formation of students.

“It’s the status that is gone. But there are extrinsic and intrinsic elements of a Catholic school in Canon Law. Its status which is the recognition of the church through the Bishop is what makes it Catholic school and not just a non-sectarian school. But intrinsically, Catholic faith can still be practiced. I can mention some private schools here that are not Catholic but have good spiritual formation,” he pointed out.

On whether the Diocese is still open for further negotiation with the school, Buzon said they never wanted to leave, but they were forced out.

“If they are open in some other time, we will see. But at this time, we are left with no choice,” he added.