Virginia Beach, Va. – With signs reading “Justice for Father Manalo,” a group of people rallied outside of St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church Saturday.
“This demonstration really is a show of solidarity of the Filipino community for what we believe is an injustice,” said Dr. Diego Rubio, a supporter of the priest.
The rally is in support of Father Leo Manalo, 79, a long-time priest in the community and founder of the San Lorenzo Spiritual Center where many Filipino Catholics gather.
In the fall, he was notified that he can no longer serve as a priest in the Diocese of Richmond, though he could still work as a priest elsewhere. Although he has been in the area for more than 30 years, he is officially a guest priest from the Philippines.
NewsChannel 3 spoke with him about it earlier this week. “I feel like Christ being betrayed by his own loved ones,” he said.
The decision by Bishop Francis DiLorenzo has left some in the community outraged. They say they don’t have a clear explanation about what happened.
With the Bishop in Virginia Beach for a confirmation service at St. Gregory’s Saturday, Manalo’s supporters said they were hoping to get his attention.
A spokesperson for the Bishop says the decision was due to “unacceptable conduct” during a mass, but did not provide specifics. The spokesperson also said there has been dissension and turmoil within San Lorenzo for more than a decade.
His supporters say that’s not true.
Some say they believe it stems from jealousy.
Manalo has been called “the millionaire priest” due to some lavish belongings, including a Mercedes-Benz.
Manalo says they were gifts for his service, which his supporters say is not a crime.
They are hoping the rally will lead to more answers from the Bishop and that ultimately Manalo will be allowed to work in the community again.