Parents accuse Belen priest of making discriminatory comments against Muslims

BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – A priest in Belen in under fire after members said he made discriminatory comments about Muslims during a children’s mass.

Our Lady of Belen and the St. Mary’s Catholic School sits in the middle of town. Paulette Tayofa has been attending our Lady of Belen for over 30 years and said in early March she attended a mass with her young nephew and her parents. She said it started as any other Wednesday mass, but then she couldn’t believe what Father Jonas Romea said about muslims to a room full of kids from pre-school to eighth grade.

“He told them, you know, you need to be very proud with your Christian faith and don’t listen to the liberals because the Muslims will chop your heads off,” Tafoya said. “My dad and I, and my mom we were just sitting there, like, shocked,” she said.

Tafoya and her parents waited until mass was over to speak with Father Jonas Romea and she said he didn’t take it well.

“He was really upset that we even went up to him, that we questioned him,” she said. “I said not all Muslims are bad, they’re not all trying to kill us, and he told me, if given a chance, every single Muslim would kill me.”

After receiving complaints, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe sent out a letter to parents, saying the homily didn’t fully embrace the message of Jesus Christ.

Members of the church have even taken to Twitter. Former Sen. Michael Sanchez said it’s not right, and that he stands with Muslims. Another man said his family stood up to the priest when it happened, and a mother said she felt betrayed in another Tweet.

Father Clement Niggel, the pastor of the church, said what happened is unfortunate and the message of Father Jonas didn’t come across as intended. He said the situation was handled immediately.

The church says Father Jonas is still delivering children’s mass.

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