Mindanao bishop bans 'healing priest' from diocese

Bishop Jose Cabantan of Malaybalay says Fernando Suarez is celebrating Masses without a permit
Mindanao bishop bans 'healing priest' from diocese

Father Fernando Suarez, known as the Filipino 'healing priest,' addresses a crowd during one of his healing activities. (Photo courtesy of Father Fernando Suarez Followers and Healing Group)

A Catholic bishop has barred a "healing priest" from performing activities in a diocese in the southern Philippines for failing to present the necessary permit from church authorities.

Bishop Jose Cabantan of Malaybalay said Father Fernando Suarez had been conducting "healing Masses" without necessary documentation from the diocese.

"We ask his group to secure a 'celebret' or an endorsement from his bishop so that we can allow him to celebrate Mass and do healing," Bishop Cabantan said.

Church policy requires a priest who wishes to celebrate Mass outside of his diocese to present an endorsement from his local bishop.

The endorsement would confirm that a priest is in good standing in his own diocese or religious congregation.

In a memorandum issued on Oct. 7, Bishop Cabantan warned Father Suarez and other visiting clergymen that they are prohibited from celebrating Mass and other sacraments in Malaybalay Diocese without permission.

"I am calling all the clergy, religious and our lay faithful to be vigilant and cautious about [the presence of Father Suarez and his companions]," said Bishop Cabantan.

"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 administering of the sacraments." 

Other bishops have banned Father Suarez holding healing Masses in their dioceses in the past.

In 2008, the late Bishop Jose Olivares of Malolos and now retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan prohibited Father Suarez, a Filipino member of the Canada-based Companions of the Cross, from conducting healing Masses in their dioceses.

The bishops said Father Suarez did not seek permission and they questioned the selling of items and fundraising during the Masses.

Born in 1967 in the village of Butong in Taal town, Batangas province, the future priest went to Manila and graduated with a chemical engineering degree from Adamson University, which is run by the Vincentian Fathers.

After college, he entered the Franciscan Order but left more than a year later. He joined the Society of the Divine Word but was asked to leave after six months.

Suarez was in his late 20s when he met a French-Canadian student who invited him to Canada. There, he tried to join Winnipeg Diocese to study as a diocesan priest but it did not work out and he eventually left.

He then met priests of the Companions of the Cross, a Canadian congregation founded in the 1980s, and has stayed with them since. He was ordained in 2002.

Father Suarez’s gift of healing first became known abroad and only later in the Philippines. He later established the Mary Mother of the Poor Healing Ministry, a foundation to help the poor.

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