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Nov 29th
Home Sections The Daily B.R.E.A.D. The Sorsogon Cathedral May Soon Celebrate New Kind of Mass: A Critical Mass
The Sorsogon Cathedral May Soon Celebrate New Kind of Mass: A Critical Mass PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - The Daily B.R.E.A.D.
Written by Bobby M. Reyes   
Friday, 28 June 2013 07:55

Part One of a New Series on the "Reinvention of the Catholic Church of Sorsogon"

By Lolo Bobby M. Reyes of Barrio Bibingcahan, Sorsogon City, and West Covina, CA

T he construction of commercial buildings in 1995 on two sides (on the setback) of the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Downtown Sorsogon City has spawned protests for the past 18 years. Thanks to the Facebook, tens of thousands of Sorsoganons in Sorsogon Province, in Philippine cities and abroad are now aware of the protest. Soon the Catholic Church in Sorsogon may find itself facing a need to celebrate a new kind of mass: a "Critical Mass."

To the uninitiated, the term "Critical Mass" (as found in many reference books) is
"derived from nuclear physics, where it is defined as the smallest mass of material that can sustain a nuclear reaction at a constant level." It has evolved into a business term, which means "Revenue level at which fundamental changes can occur in a firm, and can make it largely self-sufficient in resources for continued viability, vitality, and growth."

The protest over the ill-advised decision of then-Bishop Jesus Y. Varela of the Diocese of Sorsogon (DoS) to lease two sides (setbacks) of the Sorsogon Cathedral to a Filipino-Chinese contractor for 25 years (1995 to 2020) in which the bishop was given reportedly an advance amount of two-million pesos as rental. The DoS has refused to a present a copy of the lease contract, which critics have labelled as highly immoral, illegal (as contrary to the then-municipality's -- now Sorsogon City's -- zoning law and building code) and that violated the basic tenets of accountability and transparency. Diocesan officials also refuse to tell what happened to the lease payment and how it was spent or who got it. There is speculation that the rental payment became the retirement fund of Bishop Varela. It was reportedly deposited in full at a commercial bank (as a long-term "time deposit") that supposedly earns 18% interest per annum.

Bishop Varela has since retired and the Vatican has appointed the Most Rev. Arturo Bastes, SVD, as the new head of the DoS. This writer, as the self-anointed leader of the protest movement, has met in Southern California five times with Bishop Bastes and he has been told him
face-to-face not only about the scandalous lease of the setbacks at the Sorsogon Cathedral but also the need for the DoS to observe the ATIC policies. ATIC, as this writer has coined in 2003, is the acronym for "Accountability, Transparency, Integrity and Credibility." Bishop Bastes, to his credit, has listened to the protest but he has remained mum on what he wants to do with the "religious eyesores," as the commercial buildings at the Sorsogon Cathedral have been dubbed.

This writer has reiterated the demand of the parishioners of the DoS for the ATIC to be observed strictly and for diocesan officials to account for grants  from local and foreign donors during the administration of then Bishop Arnulfo Arcilla and his successor, Bishop Varela. For instance, this writer has asked why land donations by several Sorsoganon families like the Berenguers, Durans, the Floreses, the Garcias, the Ubaldos and other prominent clans were turned into commercial subdivisions by then-Bishop Arcilla, who reinvested revenues in a subdivision in Legazpi City (Albay Province) and even in the Rizal Beach Resort (where he reportedly owned 50% of the equity). The land donations were meant to be distributed to the poor and landless members of the congregation. The properties, stocks and moneys that ought to have belonged to the DoS are now in the hands of a foundation that is controlled by the siblings of Bishop Arcilla (now deceased), who was sacked by the Vatican and replaced by Bishop Varela, who apparently continued the almost-feudal practice of his predecessor.

T oday, the conflict with the DoS officials has reached the level of a "Critical Mass," as the number o
f activists and advocates and their degree of commitment to the reform agenda have come to such a level at which the fundamental changes sought for can now occur and that -- if given time and opportunity -- can largely be self-sufficient in resources to sustain continued vigor, viability and vital growth.

The "Critical Mass" (pun intended) for the Sorsogon Cathedral will no longer be satisfied with the demolition of the protested commercial buildings at the setbacks. Parishioners are urged to withhold contributions to the collection boxes during masses and tithes to all of the DoS's 28 parishes until the diocesan officials practice the ATIC policies. The activists want more; they are now talking of petitioning the Vatican to conduct an election among the members of the DoS to choose among Sorsoganon native priests the new bishop after the administration of current Bishop Bastes ends or when he retires or resigns. After all, they now believe that the church, the government and the economy should be of the people, by the people and for the people.

(To be continued . . .)

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Comments (2)
1 Friday, 28 June 2013 17:36
This fight to demolish the ugly eyesores that are the commercial buildings on 2 sides of the Sorsogon Cathedral will become the DEFINING MOMENT in the history of the Catholic Church of Sorsogon & even in the fight against corruption in our province. When the protest movement wins & forces the demolition of the offending buildings, even the Trapos (traditional politicians) & political Herods of Sorsogon will remember it. If we can fight a corrupt bishop (even if he is now retired), then we can fight any other corrupt political leader in Sorsogon. Kun baga, kun laen nato nirespecto an corrupt na obispo, si Talpulano pa kaya? (If we did not respect a corrupt bishop, how we can respect the equally corrupt layman leader?)
2 Friday, 28 June 2013 17:37
(Con't.) BTW pls take note that while the 25-year lease contract for the Cathedral's setbacks should expire in 2020 (7 years from now), the contractor is said to have an option of extending it for another 25 years. So, heaven forbid the religious eyesores continuing to blacken the Sorsogon Cathedral until 2045. Now the Catholic Sorsoganons will be forced to side with the Diocese or with the Reformists and Agents of Changes in the Catholic Church of Sorsogon. Nobody should be neutral in this controversy. Either one if for "Christ the King" or with "Chowking."

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