Supporters of Priest Hold Candlelight Vigil
Statement Tells of Resignation

By Susan M. Loux
Press Enterprise [Riverside, CA]
May 1, 1993

Lake Elsinore In his first formal address since being removed as pastor of St.

Frances of Rome Catholic Church two weeks ago, the Rev. Rudi Gil told his flock he has resigned as their pastor and urged them to move ahead with church goals.

"My great concern is that the work we have accomplished together over the past four years may suffer a setback as a result of my personal trials," Gil said in a written statement that was read to about 100 of his supporters at a candlelight vigil in his honor. "To insure that the dream may continue and that I may begin my recovery, I have submitted my resignation as pastor of St. Frances of Rome. I encourage you to embrace your new pastor with the same love and support you have shown me. " The Diocese of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties placed Gil on paid leave after a recent allegation was made that Gil was involved in sexual misconduct with a minor six years ago. It is conducting an investigation.

A diocese spokesman revealed the allegation to the congregation at Mass two weeks ago and said Gil had verbally resigned. Gil said as recently as Thursday morning that he never resigned. The priest met with Bishop Phillip Straling Thursday afternoon, however, and submitted his written resignation then, said Monsignor Donald Webber.

Gil has declined to comment on the matter since that meeting.

Followers describe Gil as a charismatic priest who brought together the city's Anglo, Hispanic and Vietnamese communities.

Easter Mass was said in three languages, said Gypsy Hubbard, who read Gil's statement and who is studying to become a deacon. Last night's vigil and rosary, in English and Spanish, were held beneath a towering wooden cross in a field near the church.

Hubbard said he hoped the vigil would help parishioners release emotions and start the healing process. Several wept after Gil's letter was read.

Despite the announcement, some congregants said they will not end their campaign to urge the church hierarchy to return Gil to their pulpit. More than 800 have signed a petition and some have spoken of picketing the bishop if they do not get results. They said they have forgiven Gil for any alleged improprieties.

"We want him back, even if we have to go all the way to the Pope," said Florence Berry, who helped Gil conduct Mass. "We need him back to keep us going. " More traditional parishioners have said it is wrong to challenge the diocese's actions. "The petition and all that other stuff, it's outlandish," said Jack Forbes, who did not attend the vigil.

John Smith disagreed with the stance. "We should question the diocese," he said before the candles were lit last night. "Times are changing. " Sylvia Martinez of Woodcrest, Gil's cousin, said she asked her priest if it was proper to participate in a demonstration for Gil, such as the vigil. "He said it was not a good idea," she said.

Martinez attended the vigil but said her prayer silently, she said.


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