MANILA - Filipino Catholic healing priest Fr. Fernando Suarez passed away on Tuesday at the age of 52, his spokesperson confirmed.
In an interview with dzMM, Dedee Siytangco said Suarez was playing tennis at the Alabang Country Club when he collapsed.
He was brought to the Asian Hospital Medical Center where he was declared dead at around 3 in the afternoon.
"Our healing priest, si Fr. Fernando Suarez, has collapsed and died of a heart attack, massive heart attack while he was playing tennis... It was a yearly tournament for priests. All priests ang participants," Siytangco said.
Suarez was survived by his mother and four siblings.
Though the priest had gout, Suarez had no history of heart problems, Siytangco said.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News in January, Suarez admitted that he was an avid tennis player.
Among priests, he organizes a yearly tournament in the Philippines called “Fr. Fernando Suarez Tennis Cup,” which is also staged in countries like Poland, attracting participants from at least 15 nations.
Suarez became popular in the Philippines and other countries for his healing Masses, attended by thousands who hope to be cured of their illnesses.
Despite his popularity, several bishops banned him from performing healing Masses in their respective dioceses for various reasons.
SUAREZ VS BISHOPS
During his ministry, Suarez was banned by at least four dioceses in the Philippines — Cubao, Lingayen-Dagupan, Malolos, and Malaybalay.
Local bishops frowned at Suarez's supposed ability to heal and even raise people from the dead. Some also questioned his status in the Catholic Church for not being "incardinated" or connected to a particular diocese, prelature, or congregation where he would be under the authority of a bishop.
Aside from skepticism from bishops, Suarez also faced sexual abuse allegations. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' National Tribunal of Appeals submitted the complaint to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on May 8, 2019. But the Vatican, in January, found him "not guilty" of these accusations.
He then appealed to bishops, insisting there was no more reason to prevent him from practicing his healing ministry in the dioceses that earlier shut their doors on him and members of the Missionaries of Mary Mother of the Poor.
"They should lift my ban," Suarez told ABS-CBN News. "Kung alam mo lang (If you only knew) what I went through," he added, citing the "ordeal of mental torture, calumny, gossips, especially among... bishops and priests."
Suarez said the sexual abuse case was triggered by a complaint from a sacristan and his friend in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, where he was previously incardinated. Details of the case were kept strictly confidential under church rules.
Suarez said there appeared to be "someone behind" the complaint, adding that it might have had something to do with a "power play." He did not elaborate.
“Parang pina-project. Parang may crusade against me. (It's as if I was targeted, like there was a crusade against me.)”
'NOT A CULT'
While acknowledging that it’s the right of bishops to say if they want to have a "healing Mass" or not, Suarez lamented how issues against him had to reach the media.
"May kulto ba akong ginagawa? Meron ba akong crime? Ako ba ay notorious? Something na hindi malinaw," he said.
He said he has been conducting "healing Masses" for 17 years, and it’s only in the Philippines where he usually encounters problems.
"Ako'y pagod na sa kaka-explain ng ganito at 'di ko kailangan ito," he said.
He said people are drawn to his "healing Masses" but he clarified that he has never claimed to be a healer. With reports from Christian Esguerra and Aleta Nieva-Nishimori, ABS-CBN New