Puerto Rican bishop removed by pope feels 'blessed to suffer persecution'

Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres | Diocese of Arecibo

Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres, who was relieved Wednesday of his office as Bishop of Arecibo, said that he feels "blessed to suffer persecution and calumny."

In a letter published on the Diocese of Arecibos’ website shortly after the Holy See Press Office announced the Pope's decision, Bishop Fernández Torres, 57, stated that "today I can hold my head high and even being imperfect and sinful, know that I have done the right thing and that gives me a lot of inner peace.”

The bishop stressed that this experience “has helped me realize in a new way the grave responsibility that all bishops have in the government of the Church, which is apostolic and not pyramidal, synodal and not autocratic.”

“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 calling to be prophets,” he noted.

"These are difficult times, but let's not lose hope," he said.

Bishop Fernández Torres was relieved of the pastoral care of his diocese March 9. The Holy See gave no reason for the decision. Bishop Álvaro Corrada del Río, S.J., Bishop Emeritus of Mayagüez, was appointed Apostolic Administrator ad nutum Sanctae Sedis.

The removed bishop had initially resisted sending his seminarians to the Interdiocesan Seminary of Puerto Rico, approved by the Vatican in March 2020.

He had also supported conscientious objection to compulsory vaccination against COVID-19 in an August 2021 statement.

In his letter, the Bishop Emeritus of Arecibo expressed his joy at "how much we have been able to do together in the Diocese of Arecibo, in these almost twelve years, in youth and vocational ministry, in the fight for the dignity of human love, family and respect for life.”

In addition, he highlighted the work done for “the freedom of the Church against political interference, in the formation of holy priests and in having given a 'House' to the Virgin in our diocesan Shrine.”

"If for trying to be faithful to God I am replaced in office, it’s worth it, because as a bishop I can be useful to the Church with my own witness," he said.

Towards the end of his message Bishop Fernández Torres reiterated his "communion in the Catholic faith, with the Pope and my brothers in the episcopate, despite my perplexity at an incomprehensible arbitrariness."

“And if, from now on, I can be of any service to you, I declare my complete availability,” he said.

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