Local News

Mass suspended indefinitely after parishioner protest

Posted August 20, 2009 9:10 a.m. EDT

— Catholic leaders indefinitely halted Mass services at a Robeson County church from Wednesday after about 150 parishioners locked the priest out last weekend.

Bishop Michael Burbidge has suspended the weekly Mass on Sunday and Wednesday at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Red Springs "for the foreseeable future," according to Frank Morock, a spokesman for the Catholic diocese in Raleigh.

The decision was announced Wednesday night when Monsignor David Brockman visited to try to smooth things over.

About 150 church members protested at the church last Sunday and padlocked the doors to keep out Rev. Walter Ospina.

“What happened Sunday was a hostile act – locking people out of mass, which is very important to the Catholic faith,” Morock said.

Burbidge expressed his “love, respect and appreciation for the parish community"  in the statement Brockman read. Burbidge hopes to name a facilitator to help with the situation within the next week.

Protesters said that Ospina is out of touch and looks down on the Latino community. Ospina, who is from Colombia, was appointed to St. Andrew a year ago.

Parishioner Maria Perez said that Ospina needs "to be more active, more social, more friendly – basically what a priest is supposed to be."

"He's not just here to give Mass. He's here to serve the community. He's not doing that," she added.

Morock said that there are no plans to remove Ospina and that other congregation members are satisfied with his ministry style.