MANILA - Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles has denied allegations that his archdiocese is backing the leasing of a portion of a heritage church for commercial purposes.
A Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) News report quoted Arguelles as saying that there is no truth to reports that a part of the Immaculate Conception Parish Church in Balayan town will be leased to a grocery chain.
"More than the consideration of the Historical Commission, it is not part of the intention of the Archdiocese of Lipa to lease that portion of the building for a commercial end, convinced of its intrinsic evangelizing force and cultural valence," Arguelles said.
"To the advice for us to stop some diggings and all development projects affecting the church building, I say we cannot stop anything that has never been started,” he said.
Arguelles broke his silence after protests against the supposed plan reached Vatican doors through various signature and media campaigns.
A petition on change.org is calling for Arguelles to abandon plans of commercializing the church.
"Upon further investigation, we understand that the Archdiocese of Lipa wishes to utilize all properties of the church for its commercial value in order to generate income. We gathered as well that in the latter part of July 2013, an ocular inspection of the Balayan church grounds was initiated by the Archdiocese of Lipa along with an Evaluation Meeting with a select group of parishioners to evaluate reactions to the revenue generating proposal of the Church. Proposals were offered to occupy the convent and the elementary building calling for the nuns to be relocated to another area within the grounds. Based on feedback we received from the said group, a significant number of participants opposed the said plan," a portion of the petition addressed to Arguelles read.
The prelate admitted that such a plan was actually considered by the archdiocesan finance administrator, but was later scrapped after it "triggered a barrage of angry responses."
Arguelles said the plan still drew the ire of critics even though he already asked the finance administrator to keep mum about it.
"Certainly, because of these misrepresentations, we are pained that the parish and the archdiocese are immediately placed in a bad light in the eyes of our unknowing and misinformed faithful who are men and women of goodwill," he said.
"Allow me to clearly declare to everyone: more than the consideration of the Historical Commission, it is not part of the intention of the Archdiocese of Lipa to lease a portion of the building for a commercial end, convinced of its intrinsic evangelizing force and cultural valence,” he added.