The nun was ordered to leave the Philippines for allegedly taking part in political activities against President Rodrigo Duterte. At present, she is awaiting a decision by the Justice Department on her appeal.
Manila (AsiaNews/CBCPNews) – Involved in a legal battle against her expulsion, Australian-born missionary Sister Patricia Fox has called on Catholic Church leaders to support missionaries with prayer and support.
The 72-year-old superior of the Religious of Our Lady of Sion in the Philippines, whose missionary visa was not renewed by the Bureau of Immigration (BI), believes that her case could have repercussions on other missionaries.
“I think it is an issue that the Church has to look at and it needs to come out with a clear statement because it will affect all foreign missionaries in the long term,” Fox said.
She noted it has been a long-time practice for all foreign missionaries in the Philippines to apply for a 10-year missionary visa, subject for renewal after getting a temporary downgraded visa.
By denying Sr Fox’s visa, the BI cited its memorandum of understanding with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) that "restricts missionary visa holders for up to ten years”.
The nun appealed for the renewal of her missionary visa, which expired on 5 September. The BI insists that an extension would violate the memorandum, adding that the religious has already spent 27 years in the country.
Sister Fox's lawyer dismissed this argument, saying that the 10-year extension and renewal rule should only apply to Fox’s case on the day the Bureau converted her tourist visa on 5 September 2014.
“[When] the BI approved the conversion of Sister Fox’s tourist visa into a missionary visa, she was given a new or a fresh period of 10 years from the said date or until 2024 to stay in the country,” lawyer Jobert Pahilga said.
The decision to expel the nun from the Philippines came after she allegedly took part in political activities against President Rodrigo Duterte, seemingly violating terms and conditions of her missionary visa. As a result of this, Sister Fox’s name was added to a list of unwanted foreigners.
For now though, the BI order against the nun has been suspended, as the Justice Department has yet to decide her appeal.