MANILA, November 26, 2003  (STAR) By Jose Aravilla - Pope John Paul II has accepted the resignation of Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr., who was accused of sexual harassment in April by his personal secretary, but he will retain his episcopal office.

The acceptance of Bacaniís resignation was announced by Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Franco in a letter to Rev. James Reuter, director of the Catholic Churchís National Office of Mass Media.

Franco said in his letter that San Fernando, La Union Bishop Antonio Tobias, who was named apostolic administrator of the Novaliches diocese in June, will succeed Bacani as bishop.

"This appointment ends the controversy that has disturbed the Diocese of Novaliches for many months," Reuter said in statement.

"Bishop Bacani remains as a bishop in good standing with all rights and powers as bishop. But at the moment, he is not in charge of any particular diocese," he added.

Reuter said the acceptance of Bacaniís resignation settles the sexual harassment charge and "no further word is expected from the Vatican."

According to Franco, the acceptance of the resignation was made in accordance with Canon 401, Section 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

Church insiders said the cited canon provides that "a Diocesan Bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfillment of his office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from office."

Bacani was accused by his 33-year-old secretary of sexual harassment for allegedly embracing her from behind and touching sensitive parts of her body while they were inside his office.

Bacani denied the accusations but admitted in a statement making "inappropriate expression of affection."

Sources said Bacani is currently "on retreat" in a religious congregationís house in the Visayas. He reportedly left on Nov. 15 and his brother Pastor Bacani could not say when he will return to Manila.

"Whatever decision the Vatican makes he (the Bishop) will abide," Pastor, 65, the eldest of the five Bacani siblings, told The STAR. Bishop Bacani, 63, is the second eldest.

"He has resigned himself to the will of the Vatican. Being an obedient son of the Church he will follow," said Pastor, who last talked to Bacani on Monday.

"Definitely, it will not affect his faculties as a bishop. He will continue to perform priestly functions. He has entrusted himself to the Lord. He will continue to serve the Church," added Pastor. "The family hopes that this will put the issue to rest."

Reuter in his own statement said there is no resolution yet on the sexual harassment case and the resignation was accepted because "the Diocese of Novaliches has suffered enough. Bacani probably resigned because the pressure of media was causing too much pain to too many people."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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