Controversial priest Fr. Fernando Suarez died February 4, 2019. (Photo: Fr. Fernando Suare

Philippines

Controversy dogged his life ever since he became famous for his so-called ‘healing powers’

Teodoro ‘Ted’ Alcuitas

Fr. Fernando Suarez, who died February 4 while playing tennis at the Ayala Alabang Clubhouse in Muntinglupa City was buried in his hometown of Taal, Batangas on February 17.

 Suarez died three days before his 53rd birthday and just over a month after he was cleared by the Vaticanof sexually abusing minors.

Born in Barrio Butong, Taal, Batangas in 1967, Suarez completed a degree in Chemical Engineering from Adamson University before deciding to go to Canada to become a priest.

The healing priest was born in Barrio Butong, Taal, Batangas in 1967. He has a degree in Chemical Engineering from Adamson University, but decided instead to go to Canada in 1995 to become a priest. He first started in Winnipeg, Manitoba and moved  to Ottawa where he completed his studies and joined the Companions of the Cross.

Ordained in 2002 at age 35,  he began to focus his ministry on faith healing conducting his sessions throughout Canada and the U.S. In 2008, it was reported that over 8,000 people -more than 2,000 per mass attended his healing masses in Metro Vancouver including Coquitlam, Burnaby, Richmond and Maple Ridge.

He established Mother Mary of the Poor Healing Ministry with the mission and intent “to seek holiness in evangelizing and working with the poor through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

Suarez’s popularity as a healing priest had attracted the attention of many of his peers in the Catholic Church including the late Malolos, Bulacan bishop Jose Oliveros, who complained that Suarez was not following a Vatican rule on healing activities under the Church issued by the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith (CDF). 

But along with what many believed was Suarez’s noble intention to heal the sick and help the needy was a wave of controversies, including serious allegations that he sexually abused minors and used his stature to make money, among others.

The charges prompted Suarez to temporarily close his ministry, which sidelined him for quite some time until the Vatican, through the National Tribunal of Appeals of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), allowed him to resume his work.

Suarez was preparing for his return to active priesthood at the time of his unexpected death.

In 2011 he left the Companions of the Cross in Ottawa to join the Vicariate of San Jose in Mindoro and the order discontinued the association with the foundation he founded.

He envisioned to build the world’s tallest statue of the Virgin Mary but run into problems.

The Mother of All Asia-Tower of Peace is a monument to the Virgin Mary located inside the five-hectare pilgrimage site called Montemaria in Barangay Pagkilatan, Batangas City, Philippines.  It  is set to become the world’s tallest statue of the Virgin Mary at 96 m (315 ft).

The construction of a statue of the Virgin Mary and pilgrimage site at the Montemaria development in Batangas City was originally planned and pursued by the Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation (MMP) led by Fr.  Suarez.  According to the Philippine Inquirer, Suarez got the idea of developing a pilgrimage site from Hermilando Mandanas, a local politician and acquaintance whom he met in 2006, where the priest could perform his faith healing work. Mandanas’ company, Abacore Capital Holdings, Inc., donated the five-hectare land in Barangay Pagkilatan where the statue and the proposed pilgrimage site would stand, which would later be called Montemaria.

Initially, progress for the project was made in 2009 after Suarez’s foundation was able to raise ₱200 million. But in the following year, the project was later put on hold after Suarez moved to Cavite, where San Miguel Corporation offered him a 33-hectare land in the town of Alfonso where he could set up a bigger pilgrimage site. Cited as the one responsible for building a statue of the Virgin Mary at Montemaria, Mandanas continued to project and established the Montemaria Asia Pilgrims Inc. (MAPI) to help him manage the project’s development. The property where the statue would stand was later set for donation to MAPI but such plans were canceled and the land was donated to the Archdiocese of Lipa instead. At the time, the statue which had its face and hands already complete, became known as the “Mary Mother of All Asia”.

Construction work for the statue began in 2014 and is expected to be completed in 2021 marking the 500th anniversary of the introduction of Christianity in the Philippines.

The Mother of All Asia statue was designed by sculptor Eduardo Castrillo and is made of concrete and steel. With the planned height of 96 m (315 ft), the Marian statue will surpass the Virgin of Peace statue in Venezuela to become the tallest statue of the Virgin Mary in the world.

Despite receiving millions of pesos from local supporters and millions of dollars from foreign believers, MMP has not shown SMC the plans for the shrine, according to an Inquirer story.