Rome asks Bishop of Arecibo to resign
By John McPhaul
The bishop of Arecibo, Monsignor Daniel Fernández Torres, announced Wednesday that Rome has requested his resignation.
“When you receive the news of my replacement as bishop at the head of the Diocese of Arecibo, I want you to know that it is not up to me to explain a decision that I cannot explain myself, even if I accept it with the patience of Christ for the good of the Church. Nor is it up to you to judge what only God and history will do at the time,” Fernández Torres said in a written statement. “I am very sorry that in the Church where mercy is preached so much, in practice some lack the slightest sense of justice. I have not been prosecuted, nor have I been formally accused of anything, and one day the apostolic delegate simply communicated to me verbally that Rome was asking me to resign. A successor of the apostles is now being replaced without even undertaking what would be a proper canonical process to remove a parish priest.”
Fernández Torres was noteworthy for taking positions that were different from those of his fellow bishops from the other dioceses of Puerto Rico, on issues such as vaccines against COVID-19. Some of his positions even go against what Pope Francis professes. Press reports indicate that Fernández Torres refused to transfer the seminarians from his diocese to the new Interdiocesan Seminary of Puerto Rico, approved by the Vatican in early March 2020.
“I was informed that I had not committed any crime but that supposedly I had not been obedient to the Pope nor had I had sufficient communion with my brother bishops of Puerto Rico,” Fernández Torres 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 any time I was needed in another position, an offer that actually proves my innocence. However, I did not resign because I did not want to become an accomplice in a completely unjust action and that even now I am reluctant to think that it could happen in our Church.”
“This personal experience, on the other hand, has helped me realize in a new way the serious responsibility that all bishops have in the government of the Church, which is apostolic and not pyramidal, synodal and not autocratic,” he added. “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. Today more than ever we must remember our call to be prophets.”
Archbishop of San Juan Roberto Octavio González Nieves reacted Wednesday to the Holy See’s announcement that Pope Francis I would relieve Fernández Torres of his position.
“It is painful news; therefore, I encourage all the people, especially the clergy, religious men and women of Arecibo, to accompany Bishop Daniel with their prayers and affection in this particularly difficult situation,” González Nieves said in a written statement. “This morning, I was asked if I had contacted Bishop Daniel. I sent Bishop Daniel this text message: ‘Daniel … I know you are going through a very painful time. I accompany you with my prayers and fraternal feelings.’”