Parish priest in Iloilo relieved for allowing ‘unauthorized’ digging at Catholic cemetery
ILOILO CITY — Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo has relieved the parish priest of San Joaquin town in Iloilo from his post due to “unauthorized” diggings at the Catholic cemetery that has been declared a national cultural treasure.
The archbishop accepted the “indefinite” leave of absence of Fr. Nelson Silvela effective Feb. 28, according to a statement released by Msgr. Joemarie Delgado, director of the Jaro Archdiocesan Commission on Social Communications.
Lagdameo also appointed Fr. Junnick Territorio, episcopal vicar and chancellor of the archdiocese, as administrator of the parish in San Joaquin, about 54 kilometers from Iloilo City.
“He (Territorio) will be reporting directly to the archbishop about the pastoral care of the parish,” Lagdameo’s statement read.
Silvela’s relief followed reports that he authorized the diggings, believed to be for treasures, inside the Campo Santo de San Joaquin, a mortuary chapel at the Spanish-era Catholic cemetery.
The priest has not issued any statement following the arrest of the suspected treasure hunters.
The cemetery including the Campo Santo along with the San Joaquin Church are among the structures and sites declared as national cultural treasures by the National Museum of the Philippines. The cemetery and the town’s church are also popular tourist destinations.
Police on Feb. 24 arrested 10 suspected treasure hunters who were digging at the cemetery.
Parishioners had been praying and lighting candles at the cemetery.
Delgado said the archdiocese would also conduct an investigation on the alleged treasure-hunting.
“What is important now is that the pastoral needs of the people will not be compromised,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. SFM
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