MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — Two church groups have issued warnings telling Catholics to beware of at least one fraudster seeking money by posing as the apostolic nuncio, the pope’s representative in the Philippines.
Ucanews.com reported that in at least one case, the man even celebrated a private Mass in a chapel.
The reports came as the bishops’ conference issued a warning about bogus email messages circulating that claim to be from the nuncio, Archbishop Charles J. Brown.
The San Lorenzo de Manila group in Cagayan de Oro Archdiocese on Mindanao said a Caucasian male in his 50s had sought donations from its members by claiming he was Archbishop Brown. He wore a white barong shirt with a pectoral cross, the normal attire of bishops in the Philippines, the group said.
One of the group’s members claimed the man even offered to officiate at their summer recollection, ucanews.com reported.
“He claimed to be Archbishop Brown. It was quite believable because he really looked like him, and he was with a secretary and driver who claimed to be from the nunciature in Manila,” parishioner Ted Rabuyo told ucanews.com.
Rabuyo said he met the bogus archbishop during a blessing of a department store in the province.
“He blessed one of the stores in the city. He was in bishop’s clothes and introduced himself as the papal nuncio. The way he conducted himself, he must have fooled everybody present,” Rabuyo added.
Members of the Santa Rafaela women’s group in Iloilo province, in the central part of the country, said they also encountered a bogus Archbishop Brown on one of their summer excursions.
The group said a man approached its members and asked if they wanted the nuncio to celebrate Mass for them.
“Of course, we were all delighted to hear Mass from the pope’s representative. There were only 15 of us, so we went to a private chapel to hear it,” Iloilo resident Bien Magao told ucanews.com.
Afterward, when money had changed hands, the bogus archbishop immediately made his excuses and left.
“He did not even want us to have a picture with him,” Magao said.
The two groups said they had already reported the incidents to their local dioceses.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has warned the public of an online scam involving fraudsters claiming to be the papal nuncio.
“The scam targets those using Yahoo mail by asking them to enter their login details to receive confidential messages. It is a phishing attempt to get their account details,” Msgr. Bernardo Pantin, conference secretary-general, told reporters May 20.
He advised people not to reply to suspicious messages because the apostolic nunciature would not communicate with people in such a manner.
The bishops’ conference is now investigating the matter, Msgr. Patin added.