CHURCHGOERS in Orense (Galicia) boycotted Mass after their parish priest was suspended for standing in the local elections. After Antonio Fernandez Blanco was elected to La Gudiña council for the PSdG socialist party, he was told he had to choose between politics or the Church, since priests cannot take an active part in politics.
In the meantime a substitute was sent to the four parishes in Fr Fernandez’s care but outraged parishioners in Piñar de Cea stayed away from Mass last Sunday in protest at Fr Bueno’s removal.
“He is a kind, honest person and is a friend to us all. He has brought the Church close to everybody,” said a local resident. “Politics were never mentioned, neither from the pulpit nor outside it. We just don’t understand why he had to be suspended.” Churchgoers in Fr Fernandez’s three parishes were equally saddened by the prospect of losing him. “He’s an excellent person,” said Ester Gonzalez in nearby Carballeda.
She, like others, found the Church’s official attitude hard to understand. “He’s never spoken about politics. He just attended to the parishioners and looked after the church.” The regional socialists were surprised by the news. “He ran as an independent and then only after a great deal of persuasion,” said party sources, who stressed that he did not join the PSdeG.
Fr Fernandez has now formally renounced his seat on La Gudiña council seat and a diocesan official confirmed that he could now resume his duties as a priest. No mention was made of where this would be but in Piñar de Cea, Carballeda and Fr Fernandez’s two other parishes, they hoped to see him return. “We’ll never have a better priest, now or in the future,” Ester declared.