Lay Catholics have joined dozens of priests in demanding Ruteng Diocese's embattled bishop quit for allegedly misappropriating more than US$100,000 in church funds and having an affair with a woman. In a July 1 statement signed by 30 people, they said "resignation" was the best course of action for Flores Island's Bishop Hubertus Leteng as he had failed to perform his duties. "The bishop is the shepherd, the representative of Christ, the spiritual leader, the model to live the Gospel value. Since his attitude and behavior violate the nature and identity of a bishop, we urge him to resign from office," they said. If Bishop Leteng refuses to resign, they said, the Holy See must dismiss him. They claim their demands were based on considerations related to issues which they said were "very disturbing" to the Catholic Church. Bishop Leteng is facing open rebellion in his diocese after 69 priests quit their posts as episcopal vicars and parish priests on June 12 and demanded he completely change how the diocese is run. The priests accused Bishop Leteng of secretly borrowing US$94,000 from the Indonesian bishops' conference in Jakarta and US$30,000 from the diocese last year without providing an accountability report. In a meeting, he told priests the money was used to finance the education of a youth from a poor family who was studying to be a pilot in the United States. When the priests asked for details, the bishop told them that it was none of their business, a source said. The priests suspect the money went to a woman who they believe the bishop was having an affair with. The alleged affair surfaced in 2014 after a priest who chose to leave the priesthood went public with the allegation. The priests have also raised the issue with the Vatican, after their representatives on June 16 met Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, the nuncio in Jakarta. An official at Indonesian bishops' conference told ucanews.com that the nuncio has said that the Vatican will make a decision as soon as possible, and after he meets Bishop Leteng on July 7. Bishop Leteng did not respond to a ucanews.com request for comment. Lay Catholics said their demand for the bishop to quit was born out of love for the Catholic Church. "We do not want this problem to continue and lead to a bigger problem that could result in a lack of belief in the Catholic Church by people in the diocese and other dioceses around the world," they said.
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Niko Martin, a layman said, "We have a responsibility to encourage renewal in the church." "If we are silent, we become like those who let evil thrive," he said.