Prelate orders priest to vacate town parish

SANTA RITA -- Archbishop Florentino Lavarias has ordered this town's parish priest Monsignor Abelardo Basilio to vacate his post, a move that reportedly saddened some parishioners and "disappointed" the current Parish Pastoral Council (PPC), majority of whom filed their group courtesy resignation in reaction to the prelate's decision.

Basilio vacated his post on Tuesday and refused to further take parochial assignments after receiving Lavarias' instructions. Basilio was seen off to his home town in Arayat by parishioners. During his last Mass last Sunday, he thanked parishioners who flocked to the church to see their parish priest celebrate mass for the last time--for their support and love.

Basilio allegedly had a "falling out" with some parishioners and former members of the PPC that were put in place during the time of Monsignor Eugene Reyes. Some critics have been vocal in their alleged opposition of Basilio who is known for his feisty homilies.

A priest privy to the issue said that Lavarias tried to mediate between the critics, Basilio and his current PPC a few months ago. Lavarias, he said, was unable to resolve the rift, with the critics demanding that Basilio even issue a public apology for his alleged “offenses.”

Basilio urged his parishioners to continue supporting the church adding that they should also show the same love and support for the incoming parish priest. He said that he respects the decision of Lavarias and urged parishioners to continue to be true to their faith.

Basilio will be replaced by Fr. Jess Manabat.

PPC president Enrique Guanlao, on his message to parishioners on Sunday, said that they were saddened by the decision of Lavarias, adding that Basilio has done so much in terms of making the church's finances transparent, in rallying parishioner support for programs, and in improvements and developments in the church's structures and facilities.

He said that the issue over Basilio's removal “was never about money or morals” but “merely because some people in the parish did not like his homilies.” Guanlao said that they have submitted their resignation to Lavarias with an inquiry on how the archbishop arrived at such a decision.

A parishioner, who refused to be named, said that the removal of Basilio has hurt those who believed in the management of the former parish priest. The parishioner claimed that Lavarias' decision “does not heal the divisions but merely erode the status of priestly authority in the town.”

"Now anyone can just file a complaint against any priest whenever they feel offended or slighted," the parishioner said. This is not, however, the first time that parishioners of this town have asked a priest to be removed from his parochial assignment.

A priest privy to movements in parochial assignments in the Archdiocese of San Fernando told Sun.Star Pampanga that at least more priests will be removed from their current parishes and reassigned elsewhere. He said two other priests also face complaints from their parishioners.

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