A renegade priest who has refused to give up his Rosarito Beach parish says he has filed a criminal complaint of robbery against the archbishop of Tijuana, the Tijuana daily Frontera reports.
Father Raymundo Figueroa told the newspaper that personnel from the archdiocese — with the help of Rosarito Beach police officers — entered the grounds of Santísimo Sacramento parish sometime last week and removed computers, documents, and, “presumptively,” cash. The Frontera report did not mention exactly when the police raid occurred, but a press release from the archdiocese said the encounter occurred on June 18.
The incident is the latest confrontation in a battle between Tijuana archbishop Rafael Romo Muñoz and Figueroa, identified by the newspaper as “the disobedient father.” In November 2009, Romo and a group of priests were turned away by parishioners when they tried to reclaim the parish after the archbishop had transferred Figueroa. The priest has refused to leave the parish, even though Romo has assigned Fr. Carlos Santillán Ortega as the new pastor.
The archdiocesan news release noted that police officers and representatives of the archdiocese presented Figueroa with a civil court order telling him to turn over the parish to the archdiocese, “the legitimate owner” of the property. “The surrender of the property was not successful,” according to the archdiocesan statement. Figueroa, has been suspended from priestly ministry since April 30, and the archbishop has begun the process to return the priest to lay status. “Nevertheless, he continues to usurp the role of parish priest and continues the illegitimate possession of the property,” read the release.
Figueroa told Frontera he would not abandon the parish and that, when police and archdiocesan officials showed up, he began ringing the church’s bells to call parishioners. “A hundred faithful gathered on the parish patio to express their concern for what they considered an aggression against the Catholic community of Colonia Constitución and the priest,” the newspaper reported.