Archdiocese’s most wanted: Altar boy posing as priest

- Jose Aravilla -
The Archdiocese of Manila has discovered that an altar boy in his 20s has been posing as a priest and has actually celebrated Masses and heard confessions of penitents "on several occasions."

In a circular disseminated in its jurisdiction, the Archdiocese identified the impostor as Ryan Nilo Pascual Claro, who introduces himself as Fr. Rey Anthony Pascual or Fr. Rey Ann Pascual.

The Archdiocese of Manila consists of Manila, Makati, Pasay, San Juan and Mandaluyong parishes.

An Archdiocese official who requested not to be identified could not say how many Masses and what other priestly duties Claro has performed or how long he has been pulling it off, but said one of his capers included saying Mass at La Salle Greenhills. Priests are usually handed token cash for their services. It is common practice for the Catholic Church to have guest Mass celebrants. Claro apparently got away with it using his knowledge and experience as a long time altar boy.

"It is not much for the money but the sacrament. They are all invalid, no grace comes down to them (parishioners). It is not the money but their souls," said the Archdiocese official in explaining the situation.

Staff members at the San Felipe Neri parish in Mandaluyong City have confirmed that Claro has been an altar boy since his elementary days up until June 25 when he was last seen in the parish.

"As far as I know he really wanted to be a priest but I think he did not pass," said one parish staff. The staff said they do find Claro strange from time to time, but could not give other details on the altar boy’s personality and background.

The parish priest, under whom Claro served for some time, Monsignor Mario Enriquez, could not be reached for comment.

The incident, however, is not the first of its kind in the history of the Church.

"This is not an unusual occurrence. Many have posed as priests in the past, but for them to do it for money is really not that rewarding," said the Archdiocese official.

The source said that it is possible that in the provinces, fake priests could go around without being detected more easily.

The incident came after the Catholic Church openly admitted during the recent National Congress of the Clergy that the Philippines is running short of priests. There are some 8,000 priests in the country, including those belonging to religious congregations, but with the size of the country’s Catholic population — roughly 85 percent of the 80 million Filipinos — the Church said it needs four times the current figure.

But the Archdiocese said there are ways of identifying impostors. Priests are issued two identification cards — one issued by their bishop or diocese and one called celebret. Both are annually renewed.

It is for this reason that Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales included in his circular this advisory.

"When in doubt about the authenticity of a priest please demand a celebret from him," said Rosales. "In line with this, may we request Your Reverence (priests to whom the circular was addressed) to renew your celebret at the chancery for all of us to be able to facilitate the monitoring of priests who say Mass outside their parochial jurisdiction."

As for those to whom Claro may have possibly administered the Catholic rite or sacrament for the dying, the Archdiocese official said: "Perhaps God will understand."











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