MANILA - "Healing priest" Rev. Fr. Fernando Suarez on Thursday said he was shocked to learn from news reports about not being allowed to conduct a "healing Mass" in the diocese of Malaybalay in Bukidnon.
"Bakit ako? Ininvite lang naman ako. Hindi ko alam bakit sini-single out nila ako. Ang nakakataka nito, bakit ako ang kanilang kagagalitan," Suarez said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.
On Wednesday, the Catholic church's CBCP News reported that Bishop Jose Cabantan of Malaybalay in Bukidnon has joined other prelates who have barred Suarez from holding "healing Masses" in their dioceses.
Cabantan said Suarez conducted this activity in his diocese without the necessary permit.
But Fr. Biven Belderol, the parish priest of Nuestra Señora Del Pilar Parish in Quezon, Bukidnon, is taking responsibility for the incident.
"It was an honest mistake on my part. 'Di na ako nagtanong-tanong kasi he is known not only in the Philippines but all over the world for his healing gift. Since I have no question about his credentials as a priest, hindi na ako nagtanong kung meron ba siyang celebret," Belderol said.
A "celebret" is an official document of the Roman Catholic Church given by a bishop or religious superior to a priest as proof that he is in good standing, and that he is permitted to celebrate Mass outside the ecclesiastical territory where he is assigned.
Suarez said he was in Bukidnon to attend a tennis tournament at the Central Mindanao University.
"Ako naman, ininvite lang ng parish priest, Fr. Biven. Ang sabi ko sa kaniya, mag-concelebrate na lang ako kasi nandoon lang ako for a tournament ng tennis," said Suarez.
Belderol said he and other tennis enthusiasts from their area were so excited that Suarez was able to go to Bukidnon.
"Ako nag-ask sa kaniya [na] if instead of being [a] concelebrate[d Mass] nandoon naman siya tapos we're so glad of his presence, ako ang nag-kwan sa kaniya kung pwede siya na lang mag-Mass sa 4 p.m. Mass," Balderol said.
The Mass was held last Sunday, October 6.
The parish priest clarified that a "healing Mass" was not the primary intention of Suarez.
Belderol added he was unaware that there was a ban by other bishops on Suarez.
"All I know about Fr. Suarez is he's a holy man. Ang alam ko lang sa kaniya, he is known internationally and locally for his healing gift, tapos his passion for tennis," he said.
It was only last Tuesday during their clergy meeting where the Malaybalay bishop's circular letter was handed to him.
In a memorandum issued on Oct. 7, Cabantan urged the clergy and lay people to be vigilant and cautious about Suarez and his group.
"I am calling all the clergy, religious and our lay faithful to be vigilant and cautious about their presence," Cabantan said in the letter.
"We may always show them the respect that they deserve as persons and fellow Christians but mindful always of the law of the Church concerning the proper minister of the sacraments."
'MAY KULTO BA AKONG GINAWA?'
But Suarez wondered why the issue had to reach the media. He acknowledged that it’s the right of bishops to say if they want to have a "healing Mass" or not.
"Pero para ipost mo pa, ano ba ito, bakit ba ito masyadong lumaki kung pwedeng i-contain na lang. 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.
Belderol said, “I pity him na ganun pero I think that’s one of the trials for his gift.”
When asked what's next for him after this issue, Suarez replied: "Patuloy pa rin ang buhay. E 'di na ko pupunta sa diocese na yun. 'Di ko naman ikawawala yun," he said laughing.
Aside from the Malaybalay bishop, the former archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, had also barred Suarez from conducting "healing Masses," saying only Jesus can do miracles.
The late Bishop Jose Oliveros of the Diocese of Malolos also barred Suarez from holding "healing Masses."