Group Readies Lawsuit before Church Loses Yona Property

By Haidee V Eugenio
Pacific Daily News
November 5, 2016

The Redemptoris Mater Archdiocese Missionary Seminary of Guam in Yona is shown in this December 2015 file photo.

A group that has been pushing for Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron’s removal said it's ready to file a lawsuit between now and Nov. 21 to ensure the Archdiocese of Agana doesn't lose ownership and control of a $40 million to $75 million Yona property.

David Sablan, president of the Concerned Catholics of Guam, said the five-year statute of limitation expires on Nov. 21, unless the property ownership and control is challenged in court by then.

That’s five years since the declaration of deed restriction on the Yona property, given by Apuron to the Redemptoris Mater Seminary without restriction, was recorded with the Department of Land Management on Nov. 22, 2011, Sablan said.

David Sablan (Photo: PDN file photo)

"The archdiocese is working diligently on the matter of the seminary property," the Archdiocese of Agana said in a statement. "We will comment in due time."

Sablan said Concerned Catholics understands Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai is giving the community that controls the Redemptoris Mater Seminary and a theological institute an opportunity to return ownership and control without resorting to a lawsuit. Hon said on Tuesday the archdiocese is addressing the issue.

But Sablan said the clock is ticking. There are only 15 days left before the statute of limitation expires.

“(Concerned Catholics) is prepared to move forward with a lawsuit to take back ownership and control of the property that belongs to the Archdiocese of Agana if the archdiocese under Archbishop Hon does not take the matter to court. Apuron gave it away without benefit to the archdiocese and in violation of canon law,” Sablan said. “If nothing is done to get the property back, it will remain in the hands of the (Redemptoris Mater Seminary), the Neocatechumenal Way.”

Sablan said if the archdiocese challenges in court the Yona property ownership and control, Concerned Catholics will extend its support to the archdiocese. Once the property ownership is challenged in court, Sablan said the statute of limitation clock stops.

Savio Hon Tai Fai (Photo: PDN file photo)

In August, Hon called on the community controlling the Yona property to renounce all legal rights to use it, without any litigation. At the time, Hon said Apuron didn't follow instructions by Pope Francis to rescind and annul a deed restriction that gives RMS and a theological institute the legal right to use the property.

The Vatican in June placed Hon in charge of the local church, pending an investigation into multiple sexual abuse allegations against Apuron.

Hon, according to Sablan, made sure the archdiocese prepared sets of documents for Redemptoris Mater Seminary to sign to return ownership and control of the Yona property.

“These documents, when signed, will solidify the position that the Yona property is owned by the Archdiocese of Agana,” Sablan said.

Vital interest

Attorney and former senator Robert Klitzkie said the certainty of land titles, especially the ownership and control of a church property, is a matter of vital interest on Guam.

“The declaration of a deed of restriction, gross misrepresentations of Apuron and other clergy, disobedience to the pope, machinations concerning certificates of title at the Department of Land Management and other related matters don’t inspire public trust,” Klitzkie said. "Return of the property to the archdiocese would be a good start toward restoring credibility to institutions in which it is in short supply."

Klitzkie, who has been a staunch supporter of a grassroots campaign to help restore church credibility, said the fate of the Yona property in particular is tied to the financial health of the diocese and thus its ability to borrow.

“In addition, the current estimated debt of the Archdiocese of Agana is estimated to be somewhere near $20 million. We have no business giving away an asset worth at least twice that when the lay faithful are made to carry on a constant cycle of fundraisers to pay for everything from building repairs to educational supplies,” Klitzkie told PDN.

Robert Klitzkie (Photo: PDN file photo)

The reconstituted Archdiocesan Finance Council led by Richard Untalan has been regularly meeting to discuss the Yona property, the archdiocese said Monday. Untalan couldn't be reached for comment. Other council members, including Sonny Ada, referred media inquiries to Untalan.

The Archdiocese of Agana bought the former 100-room, oceanside Accion Hotel in Yona more than a decade ago for $2 million. It's one of the Guam Catholic Church’s largest real estate assets, now estimated to be worth between $40 million and $75 million.

The property is being used by the Redemptoris Mater Seminary and the Blessed Diego Theological Institute.

Hon said in August the Yona property belongs to the archdiocese, but its use was deeded away, indefinitely, to the seminary and theological institute. Creating the deed was an unusual act, according to Hon, who said use of property normally is conceded through an internal ecclesiastical agreement.

In other news, the Archdiocese of Agana’s Task Force for the Protection of Minors is conducting training at Guam’s Catholic schools as part of the church’s efforts to strengthen the safeguarding of youths from sexual abuse.

On Monday, the task force led by chairperson Sarah Thomas-Nededog, a 38-year social work professional, made a presentation at Dominican Child Development Center in Ordot. Other members are Vince Pereda, attorney John Weisenberger and husband-and-wife team Ray and Josephine Fernandez.

This followed training for faculty and staff at three Catholic schools in October — St. Anthony, St. Francis and Academy of Our Lady of Guam. Eight more archdiocesan schools will receive training in November and two in December, the archdiocese said in a statement.

Archbishop Hon called for the task force’s creation in September.









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