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69 priests resign after accusing bishop of embezzlement

A cardinal adjusts his zucchetto (AP)

At least 69 priests have resigned en masse after accusing their bishop of embezzling $100,000 of Church funds for personal use, and of having an affair.

Priests from the Diocese of Ruteng on the island of Flores, Indonesia submitted their resignations as episcopal vicars and parish priests, demanding that Bishop Hubertus Leteng overhaul how the diocese is run.

Fr Marthen Chen said reform was badly needed “so the church can be truly in line with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

“We demand renewal in pastoral work as well as in church and financial management,” he added.

Bishop Leteng is alleged to have secretly borrowed some $94,000 from the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference and a further $30,000 from his own diocese without providing an accountability report.

One priest told the bishop had told them it was to finance the education of a poor youth who was studying to be a pilot. When pressed for details, the bishop is alleged to have told them it was none of their business.

The resignations come a year after 112 of the diocese’s 167 priests signed a letter of no confidence in the bishop, on suspicions the money went to a woman with whom the bishop is alleged to have had an affair.

The bishop has denied the allegation, calling it “slanderous”.

Another priest said the bishops’ conference had investigated the case and submitted a report to the Vatican, but no action has yet been taken.