Padre Jacinto Bento responde à letra
Tendo tido conhecimento da publicação no seu jornal de um artigo com o meu nome sem eu nunca ter sido ouvido sobre a matéria do artigo, venho solicitar que publique na integra e em inglês a minha carta de resignação que apresentei às autoridades eclesiásticas competentes, em tempo oportuno, que junto envio, com os motivos da minha resignação, para que não haja mais especulações sobre a minha pessoa dado que estou ausente e não me posso defender.
Com os melhores cumprimentos,
Pe. Jacinto Bento
Dear Right Reverend Alan Hopes
23 January 2011
After the meeting on 17th January 2011, with Bishop Alan Hopes, Fr. David Irwin and myself I have decided that I can no longer stay and carry on my Ministry here in London. After a deep and profound reflexion of my experiences over the last 4 months, it is clear to me that I cannot get the support and the work conditions that I need in order to carry out the role that promised fulfil; to serve the Portuguese Catholic Community in London and the Local Church.
I would like to take this opportunity and put in writing many of the thoughts and facts that I tried to verbalise in our meeting that may have been misunderstood because of my broken English. Perhaps by sharing my thoughts and experiences of the last four months once more, you will find the compassion in your heart to understand my predicament.I realised as soon as I arrived in London that my new Mission was not going to be easy and certainly would be challenge. I became aware of the needs of the community but also the strengths and deep faith of hundreds of Portuguese Catholics and their children that every Sunday I had the opportunity to have contact with. That on its own was enough to inspire and motivate me to embrace this new Journey.
As you were made aware Southwark Diocese and the Portuguese Catholic Mission in London requested to Portugal Church the need for another Portuguese Priest due to the fact that the majority of the Portuguese Community live in Southwark and
it was difficult for just one Priest to cover the pastoral needs of such a vast Catholic Community.
Meanwhile I was the Diocesan Director for the Pastoral Care of Human Mobility, when I was invited to come to London. I left my Diocese where I was a Parish priest for 27 years and also worked as a teacher in Religious Studies in a State School for 25 years. My curriculum vitae was sent to you I believed with the letters written in July 2010, communicating my arrival. I felt honoured and proud of my past, mainly because I always felt loved and respected by everyone I worked with including my Superiors.
I arrived in London on 17th September 2010 and realised straightway that no preparations were made and none in the Community seemed to know that I was coming to London. Two days later I was left on my own for a week as the Portuguese Priest left for a holiday without having introduced me properly to neither the people or to the relevant Religious Authorities. During that month that I lived in the house of the Portuguese Mission, I felt there was enough room for both priests yet I found it very hard, not knowing what my job role was, where I was going to live but most of all not being given any responsibilities or duties, apart from Celebrating Mass on Sunday. Living out of a suitcase, and waiting for a meeting where eventually my future in London would be decided. It took a month before accommodation was found at the English Martyrs Church in Mitcham Lane and a salary was offered and paid.
Although, I had now a place to live, a room to sleep in, other tools were still missing to enable me to carry out a decent level of Pastoral work with the Portuguese Community. I didn’t have and still don’t have any of these; a landline number, internet, an office to hold meetings, access to the Portuguese files, a stamp of the Portuguese Catholic Mission etc.
Living miles away from the Community that I was meant to serve, ill equipped and being undermined, mocked and disrespected by the colleague that I was totally depending on for my integration and to fulfil my Ministry work with the Portuguese Mission. It quickly all became too much to bare.
I did ask for help and managed to have a meeting with Father David Irwin in November in the presence of a Portuguese lay woman where I did share some of my difficulties and frustrations regarding the lack of tools, and my undefined role within
the Portuguese community and Local Church.
More importantly I mentioned the unreasonable and unacceptable behaviour of the Portuguese Chaplain not just towards myself but also towards many of his Parishioners. I was advised to clarify my Pastoral situation with my Bishop and with
the Bishop in Charge of Emigration in Portugal (D. Vitalino Dantas) to later be criticised by Bishop Alan. I went home for a week and had the opportunity to speak to the relevant people and was given their full support and promised that they would do all they could to help diffuse the situation. Also when meeting with Father David Irwin I expressed my wishes to meet The Reverend Bishop Alan Hopes as soon as possible but he was never available. I returned back to London more motivated and definitely in hope that a solution would be found and I finally could start my work. Later on, I received orientations from Portugal, suggesting how the Portuguese Catholic Mission should function based on the experience of other Portuguese Missions in other Countries such as France, Germany and Switzerland. I was asked to be patient that a
letter was going to be sent to Southwark and Westminster Dioceses and that hopefully I would be contacted by the local Church regarding these issues.
I was invited to a meeting on 17th January 2011 with The Reverend Alan Hopes in the presence of Father David Irwin, two months after I had ask for help and exactly four months after I arrived in London, to be made to feel judged and criticised and totally unsupported; as if it was my fault that Bishop Alan Hopes never received the letters sent to London in July 2010. Which were apparently sent by mistake to Southwark Diocese to the attention of Bishop Patrick Lynch, who had asked for a Portuguese priest for his Diocese as matter of urgency. I was also made to feel that it was my fault that no one seemed to have read any information about me or knew that I had been in London since the 17th September 2010. It is clear to me that there was a lack of communication between the two Dioceses in London and I was caught in the middle. The Right Reverend Alan Hopes didn’t like or take on board the suggestions of the Portuguese Bishops in charge of Emigration, according to the “Erga Migrantes Caritas Christ” in regard to the Pastoral of the Portuguese Mission. In my opinion this may have been influenced by the Portuguese Chaplain however I don’t understand how the Portuguese Church can be expected to send Priests to serve our Community here without any support or guidance.
I do accept that maybe there was an initial plan for me to become an Auxiliary Parish Priest in an English Church but unfortunately that never happened or was discussed with me. I was never presented with or signed a work contract. Instead I have been living as a guest in a church in Streatham where I can sleep. I’m asked sometimes to celebrate Mass on weekdays but I was never offered a room to hold a meeting or the use of the office.
I appreciate that a salary has been paid and I’m grateful for that, however the Moral and human support and Pastoral guidance that I desperately needed was never given.
If I may say so, it feels to me whilst the current Portuguese priest stays in London, it would be impossible for another priest to work here or for the integration of the Portuguese Community in the local church. My short experience of the Portuguese Community is that is made of hard working people, with family values, and who have a strong faith but unfortunately most are fearful and oppressed by their chaplain who holds enormous power and does not seem to be supervised or receive orders from anyone.
Lastly, I would like to emphasise that I did not take this decision lightly in fact it is the most difficult and upsetting in my entire priesthood: It is the first time that I interrupt a service that I was appointed to do but the last four months have been the most painful and lonely of my Ministry and I am afraid my health is now starting to be affected.
Fr. Jacinto Alberto de Meneses Bento
Nota da redação: No PaLOP News, todas as pessoas se podem defender. Mesmo as que estão ausentes, estão presentes.