20 January 2018

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Bishop of Ruteng resigns over illicit affair and financial scandals

Bishop Sylvester Tung Kiem San is the new apostolic administrator of the diocese. In June, dozens of priests had resigned from their positions in protest. The former bishop under a Vatican  investigation since last August.

Ruteng (AsiaNews) - Bishop Hubertus Leteng resigned from office as bishop of Ruteng, Flores Island (East Nusa Tenggara), following the pressure of local faithful and clergy following allegations financial corruption.

The announcement was made public last night, along with the Vatican decision to appoint a new apostolic administrator for the diocese. Shortly thereafter, a closed-door meeting was concluded, attended by the former bishop, his successor, Msgr. Sylvester Tung Kiem St. Denpasar (Bali), secretary of the Vatican Embassy Fr. Fabio Salerno and Fr. Siprianus Horma, executive secretary of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference (Kwi). There were also several priests and representatives of the diocesan curia and the presbyteral council.

In August, the Holy See appointed General Secretary Kwi Msgr. Antonius Benjamin Subianto to conduct an investigation into the alleged immoral behaviour of the former bishop. The scandal broke out a month earlier, when local Catholics came to know about the secret love affair of Msgr. Leteng with a woman from Denspasar (Bali). Defined as a "adoptive daughter," the woman used to receive the frequent visits of her lover, from whom she is believed to have attempted to extort money with the threat of revealing their unlawful attachment.

Dozens of priests and some prominent lay faithful of Ruteng have issued two motions of mistrust against the former bishop, pushing the Vatican nunciature in Jakarta to address the issue to save the dignity of the priesthood and defend the moral he has offended. On June 15, dozens of "dissident" priests announced their resignation as "officials" of the diocese after securing the continuity of their pastoral work as "ordinary" priests. On June 20, they appealed to the Vatican nuncio to resolve this situation of "pastoral stalemate" with their bishop.

Contacted by AsiaNews, Msgr. Leteng did not want to make any statements.

Ruteng is the most "prosperous and dynamic" diocese of Flores, the "Catholic island" of Indonesia, and oversees the three major regents, from where many vocations and hundreds of priests and nuns come. For seven years, Bishop Leteng was head of the diocese, which has over 875,000 faithful, about 90% of the local population, and 81 parishes, served by 237 priests and 421 religious.

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