The parish council of San Isidro Church in Sinapalo, Rota is in an uproar after learning that Rev. Monsignor Luis Antonelli will be stripped of most pastoral and administrative duties by Nov. 29. They are requesting the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa to reconsider its decision.
In a news statement issued by parish council spokesman Pedro Dela Cruz, it said there is “no just cause or evidence to remove [Antonelli’s] pastoral or administration duties as he has always fulfilled his obligation and responsibilities to the San Isidro Church and its parishioners. He has accomplished more for Rota’s parishioners than any person in Rota’s history.”
The statement warns that “there will be more harm than good done if this plan is executed.”
It said the parishioners of Rota hope that the Chalan Kanoa Diocese “will give consideration that the people of Rota know what is right for them that best fits the needs of their community.”
San Isidro Parish Council president James C. Manglona said the Rota parishioners “will be devastated if they are not able to practice their tradition with our beloved monsignor who under his leadership and guidance built San Isidro Church without debt…”
Manglona said he has tried to contact Fr. Ryan Jimenez, the apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, but there has been no response so far.
In a phone interview, Dela Cruz said, “Our president left a message with the diocese secretary and Fr. Ryan didn’t even try contact us. So then an email was sent explaining the situation but Fr. Ryan ignored the email. This is the reason a press release was issued so that he would try to talk to us but he has ignored it. The main reason why we’re doing this is because you don’t do that to a priest who has been serving the church for many years. In fact, before that, he was the director of the seminary in Guam at Father Duenas. Having said that, he will be the next in line to become the bishop… We’re just wondering why are you doing this?”
Calls made to the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa last night after office hours were not answered.
Dela Cruz said the parishioners took it upon themselves to let the people know what is going on within the parish.
“We invite [Fr. Ryan] to come down to Rota and talk to the parishioners… [Monsignor Antonelli] has always indicated that he wants to continue to serve the people but if they feel that [Monsignor Antonelli] is old than they should assist him, not remove him,” he said.
A few weeks ago, the parishioners and the diocese arranged a meeting but Jimenez reportedly cancelled and instead met with Antonelli and notified him of his removal.
“You don’t fire a priest without cause. [Jimenez] doesn’t have the authority. He’s only been there for five years and is there to make sure things run smoothly until they assign a bishop. The only one who can actually get rid of a priest is the pope,” Dela Cruz said.
The decision to remove Antonelli’s administrative and pastoral duties came as a surprise to the parishioners. They said their only contact with Jimenez was when he visited Rota to inform the parish of the decision to remove the monsignor from the leadership.
The parishioners are planning to take action with the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa and are asking the diocese to respect the wishes of the parishioners and withdraw the effective date for Antonelli’s departure.
A petition is being drafted and will be distributed and sent the diocese and the Apostolic Nuncio in New Zealand, who is the Pacific Apostolic Delegate to the Vatican.
Manglona is asking the people of Rota to voice their objections by signing the petition.
He pointed out that, for the people of Rota, Antonelli is a spiritual and community icon and has earned the respect of the parishioners by providing communion to the sick, instituting all the sacraments, fulfilling all his pastoral obligations and also having served as a teacher for many seminarians, including bishop emeritus Thomas Camacho.
Antonelli has served the people of Rota for over 42 years for both the Sinapalo San Isidro Church and the San Francisco De Borja Church.