Pope accepts Bishop Bacani's resignation

Nov 26, 2003 09:48 AM EST

Pope John Paul II has accepted the resignation of Bishop Teodoro Bacani as head of Novaliches, ending a controversy that "disturbed" the diocese, Church officials say.

Archbishop Antonio Franco, apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, said in a November 25 letter to the Church's National Office of Mass Media that the pope "accepted the resignation" of Bishop Bacani and "nominated" Bishop Antonio Tobias of San Fernando de La Union as the new bishop of Novaliches. The nuncio asked the media office to divulge the news to the media.

In a press statement the same day, the Church media office said Bishop Tobias' "appointment ends the controversy that has disturbed the Diocese of Novaliches for many months."

Bishop Bacani was accused by his former female secretary of sexual harassment. Media reports said in June that the secretary complained to the nuncio that Bishop Bacani, 63, embraced and tried to kiss her in his office. The bishop wrote to his clergy and parishioners that he was "deeply sorry for the consequences of any expression of affection to (his) secretary."

The November 25 Church press statement notes that "the resignation of Bishop Bacani settles the case" and that "no juridical decision has been made by Rome, nor is it necessary." It says the appointment of Bishop Tobias to head Novaliches is an "administrative procedure, to bring peace to the Church in the Philippines," and it adds that "no further word is expected from the Vatican" on the issue.

"Bishop Bacani remains as a bishop in good standing, with all rights and powers of a bishop. But at the moment he is not in charge of any particular diocese," the statement says.

Until Bishop Tobias is installed as bishop of Novaliches, he will continue to run San Fernando de La Union, based 220 kilometers northwest of Manila, "with the powers of diocesan administrator." Until his installation he also will continue to run Novaliches as apostolic administrator. Bishop Tobias was appointed temporary apostolic administrator of Novaliches on June 21 while the Holy See investigated Bishop Bacani.

The statement did not mention the date of Bishop Tobias' installation as the new bishop of Novaliches.

In a letter to UCA News, Jesuit Father Jim Reuter, director of the Church's National Office of Mass Media, said "no decision was made in Rome on the charges" against Bishop Bacani "nor will the Vatican make any decision."

He said the nuncio has opted to release the news by sending a copy of his letter to the media instead of calling a press conference. But the Church media official requested that the news be embargoed until 7 p.m. Nov. 25.

In his letter, Father Reuter appealed to the media to present the news "straight as the Vatican gave it to us!"

He said "(Bishop) Bacani and his former secretary and the Diocese of Novaliches have suffered enough." He added that Bishop Bacani "probably resigned because the pressure of media was causing too much pain to too many people."

Bishop Bacani headed Novaliches for less than five months. He was installed as first bishop of the new diocese, carved out of Manila archdiocese, on Jan. 16, 2003, his 63rd birthday. Prior to that he served as auxiliary bishop of Manila for 18 years.

issue on 26 Nov, 2003