SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (LifeSiteNews) – Puerto Rican Catholics and other Christians protested Pope Francis’ removal of a popular, conservative bishop in a demonstration on Sunday.
A large group of people gathered in front of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in San Juan in support of Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres, who was dismissed from the Diocese of Arecibo last week without a canonical process over allegations of disobedience to the pope. The bishop’s ousting was a direct result of his defense of conscience objections to COVID-19 shots, according to news reports.
By all accounts, Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres' diocese of Arecibo in Puerto Rico is flourishing because of his adherence to the perennial teachings of the Church.
But, without any formal proceedings, Bishop Fernández Torres has been summarily 'relieved' of his episcopal duties allegedly because he championed conscience rights in the face of a Church vaccine mandate in Puerto Rico.
Please SIGN this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres now.
To be clear, COVID-19 is a serious disease, oftentimes with debilitating consequences, or worse, for those who contract it.
However, all coronavirus vaccines currently authorized for use in the U.S. and Puerto Rico have been tested on or produced with cell lines of aborted babies. And, the vaccines have been linked to serious side effects, while none has yet completed long-term testing.
Given the complexity of this issue, the Church has determined that getting vaccinated is a matter of personal discernment which each individual must make after informing his or her conscience.
As such, the Church teaches that there is no moral obligation to be vaccinated. Indeed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Church's teaching authority where faith and moral are concerned, issued a statement to that effect in December, 2020.
Specifically, the CDF's, “Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-COVID-19 Vaccines,” of December 17, 2020, n. 5 states: “At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”
Therefore, it would appear that for simply restating the current teaching of the CDF and for opposing his brother bishops in Puerto Rico on this seminal matter of conscientious objection, Rome is now attempting to "cancel" Bishop Fernández Torres.
This is wrong, unfair and discriminatory!
And, Bishop Fernández Torres is hardly the first bishop to defend Church teaching on conscientious objection on the issue of mandatory vaccination. Both the Colorado and South Dakota bishops' conferences released similar statements, and like Bishop Fernández Torres, they also offered to validate religious exemptions for member of their flock who asked to be exempted from vaccination.
Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres.
For his part, Bishop Fernández Torres, 57, a staunch defender of life and family, protested his removal as "totally unjust" in a statement released Wednesday (3/9/2022).
The bishop, who led his diocese for nearly 12 years, noted that Pope Francis’ apostolic delegate to Puerto Rico verbally requested that he resign, but said that he refused to do so, as he "did not want to become an accomplice of a totally unjust action."
"No process has been made against me," Bishop Fernández Torres wrote, "nor have I been formally accused of anything, and simply one day the apostolic delegate verbally communicated to me that Rome was asking me to resign."
“A successor of the apostles is now being replaced without even undertaking what would be a due canonical process to remove a parish priest,” the bishop added.
“I was informed that I had committed no crime but that I supposedly ‘had not been obedient to the pope nor had I been in sufficient communion with my brother bishops of Puerto Rico,’” he said. “It was suggested to me that if I resigned from the diocese I would remain at the service of the Church in case at some time I was needed in some other position; an offer that in fact proves my innocence.”
Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres. Thank you!
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
'Pope Francis abruptly removes faithful bishop who opposed COVID vaccine mandates' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-abruptly-removes-faithful-bishop-who-opposed-covid-vaccine-mandates/
'Puerto Rico bishop supports conscience objections to COVID vaccines, allows priests to sign exemptions' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/puerto-rico-bishop-supports-conscience-objections-to-covid-vaccines-allows-priests-to-sign-exemptions/
**Photo Credit: Diocese of Arecibo
Catholics from dioceses across the island came to testify to the bishop’s character on Sunday and demand that the pope reinstate him.
“Before becoming a bishop, he was a public defender of the faith, of the family, and a great teacher of principles and values,” organizers said. “A vigilant soldier to safeguard everyone’s freedom of conscience. An example of meekness, firmness and dignity.”
“Let them hear it here, let them hear it in Rome: Monsignor Daniel is innocent,” demonstrators chanted throughout the event.
Signs carried by protesters read, “We want our Bishop back” and “We need our Bishop of Arecibo. We demand justice.” “Where is the mercy of the Synodal Spirit? Where!?” another read.
Multiple people held signs stating that the Bishop Fernández Torres had helped their children keep jobs or continue their studies amid restrictive COVID-19 jab mandates in Puerto Rico.
“For defending our freedoms of conscience, thank you Monsignor!” read one sign.
The event was organized by Amigos de Monseñor Daniel, a group of Arecibo Catholics leading a letter campaign to the Vatican on behalf of the bishop. The letters “will be personally taken to Rome,” the organization noted in a press release.
Protestants also attended the rally, including Mario Rosario, the head of the Coalition for Life and Family, a conservative Christian network that has collaborated with Bishop Fernández Torres.
The Arecibo bishop’s “commitment is to the truth” and “defending marriage, and honoring the family,” Rosario said. He added that Puerto Rican Christians are planning an ecumenical protest in three weeks for the ousted bishop, who has served as a key leader of the pro-life and pro-family movement on the island.
Parishioners, clergy, and Catholic and other Christian leaders in Puerto Rico have rallied behind Bishop Fernández Torres in recent days, as LifeSiteNews has reported. Catholics in Arecibo, including several priests, led a prayer vigil on Wednesday following the news of his removal, and the Diocese of Arecibo’s Facebook page has been flooded with hundreds of comments backing the prelate.
A petition launched by LifeSiteNews calling for the pope to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres and a similar Spanish-language petition have topped more than 20,000 combined signatures, as of Tuesday.
“Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres, you have been chosen,” tweeted EWTN host and prominent theologian Fernando Casanova on Tuesday. “It wasn’t about Arecibo. This is about Arecibo for the whole world.”
“We love and respect you,” added Casanova. “You are not leaving. You remain as an eloquent example for all of us.”
Mons. Daniel Fernández Torres, usted ha sido elegido. No se trataba de Arecibo. Se trata de Arecibo para el mundo entero.
Seguimos con usted. Le amamos y respetamos.
Usted no se va. Usted se queda como ejemplo elocuente para todos nosotros.
— Fernando Casanova (@fernandoEWTN) March 15, 2022
The Vatican said Wednesday that Pope Francis “relieved” the bishop of pastoral care of his diocese despite bringing no formal charges against him. In a statement the same day, Bishop Fernández Torres announced that he was being dismissed due to allegations that he disobeyed the pope and was not in “sufficient communion” with the rest of the Puerto Rican episcopal conference.
“No process has been made against me, nor have I been formally accused of anything,” he said, “and simply one day the apostolic delegate verbally communicated to me that Rome was asking me to resign,” which he refused to do.
“I think that for quite some time many bishops have been watching with concern what is happening in the Church and we have resisted believing what is happening,” he continued. “Today more than ever we must remember our calling to be prophets.”
Bishop Fernández Torres declined to join a letter issued by Puerto Rico’s six other bishops in August announcing a vaccine mandate for priests and Church employees and segregation at Mass based on jab status. Echoing Pope Francis, the letter claimed “there is a duty to be vaccinated.”
Archbishop Ghaleb Moussa Abdalla Bader, the apostolic delegate for Puerto Rico, directly requested the Arecibo bishop’s resignation after he refused to sign the letter, ACI Prensa reported. The bishop had released a separate statement earlier in August stressing that Catholics can indeed reject COVID shots in good conscience and allowing priests in his diocese to sign religious exemptions.
Bishop Fernández Torres’s letter reflected the positions of numerous prelates and did not contradict the Church’s doctrinal statements on vaccination. But his defense of conscience rights still led to his deposition, according to ACI Prensa, as did his initial reluctance to send seminarians to an interdiocesan seminary in Puerto Rico approved by the Vatican in 2020.
Archbishop Roberto Octavio González Nieves of San Juan confirmed in a tweet last week that Bishop Fernández Torres was removed “solely” due to alleged “insubordination to the Pope.”