By: Nanette Guadalquiver
BACOLOD CITY — The former Queen of Peace Parish Church, which was closed down two years ago by the Diocese of Bacolod due to a property ownership dispute, has been re-opened by Bishop Patricio Buzon as a school chapel.
The church, located inside the premises of St. John’s Institute (SJI), was restored on Wednesday after the bishop issued a decree dated April 10, establishing a chapel for the school.
A press statement from the Diocese said the Queen of Peace Chapel will function as a facility for the sacramental and spiritual needs of the school community.
The decree, however, does not allow regular Sunday masses, funeral masses, and sacraments, such as baptism, adult initiation, and marriage.
“For all practical purposes, this is a very Catholic school,” Buzon said in a media interview.
According to the Diocese, the SJI school chapel is considered as a “parish-referred” chapel, which means that it is part of a larger community — the Queen of Peace Parish temporarily located at the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
The Queen of Peace Parish continues to exist as the seat of the Chinese apostolate in the Diocese, it said.
Before concelebrating a reconciliation mass on Wednesday morning, the bishop led a communal penitential rite that proceeded with a dawn procession from the San Sebastian Cathedral to the SJI campus.
The rite is an elaborate sacramental act that the bishop hopes would bring the grace of healing, the Diocese said.
Diocesan representatives and the SJI community read reconciliatory statements as the procession reached the main door of the school chapel. Buzon and SJI Board of Trustees chairman, Alfredo Barcelona, also shared an embrace of reconciliation at the chapel’s doorstep.
The mass then marked the restoration of the sacraments in SJI after the parish was “booted out” from the school premises, according to the Diocese.
It added that the bishop laid down a road map, which included a truth-telling activity, predisposition catechism, communal penitential rite, and reconciliation mass and reading of the decree establishing the SJI school chapel.
The road map is expected to address the issue of the Catholic status of SJI, the legal ownership of the properties in the SJI premises and the legitimacy of the SJI Board of Trustees, and the way forward of the Queen of Peace Parish community, the Diocese further said.
Amid the controversy years before, representatives of the donor Montelibano family confirmed that the school property had been donated to the SJI, whose Board of Trustees had sought the reversion of the church from a parish to a chapel under the management of the school.
The issue had not been resolved for years, and on May 31, 2017, Buzon issued a decree that separated the church from the school, closing down the church building and stripping the SJI of its Catholic status in the process. The existing structure then ceased to be a parish church and diocesan shrine. (PNA)