CEBU CITY, Philippines - Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal has restored the priestly faculties of two controversial clergymen during installation rites in Minglanilla town, southern Cebu.
Fr. Joey Belciña and Fr. Oscar Ornopia are two of a new team of ministers of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish?s team ministry.
?They have been renewed. They have undergone the renewal course, especially the Assist Programs in the diocese as well as the national level,? said Cardinal Vidal after celebrating Mass at the parish church.
The two priests were welcomed to the town together with other new ministers: Fr. Ladislao Tangente, Fr. Oscar Banzon, Fr. Hernani Bercede and team moderator Fr. Scipio Deligero.
In 2003, Fr. Ornopia admitted to having violated his vow of celibacy and sired two children.
Fr. Belcina was accused of sexually abusing his teenage scholar in 2006.
?They expressed to me their desire (to go back to performing priestly duties),? Vidal said.
Both priests declined to be interviewed yesterday.
Cardinal Vidal said he informed other diocesan priests about his decision to reinstate both priests.
?That was the first test: The reaction of the community of priests. I explain it to them and they accepted it,? the cardinal said.
During his homily yesterday, Vidal said he thoroughly studied the move to reinstate the priests and asked the Minglanilla parishioners to accept them.
He said all six priests who compose the team ministry have agreed to help each other perform their duties for the parish.
?They are willing to serve as priests, nothing more. Forget the past,? Vidal said.
Vidal said the Assist Programs that both priests went through involved heavy reflection and contemplation.
?For example, in the morning, before anything, they have the Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. Then they will go to Mass and do other things,? Cardinal Vidal said.
?Graduates? of the program have formed a community wherein they help each other by continuing what they practiced within the program, Vidal said.
While Vidal said that the archdiocese could not intervene in how Fr. Ornopia supports his children, the community may do something about it.
?It is up to them to do something,? he said.
Leaders of different religious organizations of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish of Minglanilla welcomed the six new priests.
The group, however, would be vigilant: Fr. Belciña and Fr. Ornopia would be monitored, while the town?s children would be cautioned, said Inocentes Secuya, barangay captain of Tulay and chairman of the Parish Assistance Group.
Secuya said the group was well aware of both priests? backgrounds. The allegations were serious, and should not be taken for granted, he said.
?We also would not like our parish to be embarrassed. Through our group, we?ll make sure that will not happen,? he said.
Secuya, however, said that as long as both priests stick to their priestly duties, the Parish Assistance Groups would fully support them.
Liumen Canedo, former president of the Parish Pastoral Council of Minglanilla, said it was not for the parishioners to judge the two priests despite their backgrounds.
?We have to give our support to their program, but we will be extra careful,? she said.
Fidel Baran, chairman of the town?s Catholic Youth Catechists group, said the group's members, mostly composed of young boys and girls, have been warned of the two priests. The group, however, would not object to the priests? assignment in the town.
He said that even if the allegations against both priests were true, he was confident they would not do it again in Minglanilla.
?The people are very active in religious activities and already aware of the wrongdoings of the priests,? Baran said. ?God probably made sure to assign them to our parish to help reform them or curtail their behavior.?