Biloxi police called to calm angry church parishioners - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi police called to calm angry church parishioners

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Tempers flared at a Biloxi church Sunday morning as parishioners showed up demanding to know what happened to hundreds of thousands of dollars in church money. Six months ago the Vietnamese Martyrs Church welcomed a new priest. Now some parishioners say the communication between them and Father Jimmy Pham has broken down, and they are outraged.

The shouts of anger rang out through the house of worship.

"This community is very strong," said George Nguyen, parishioner. "But he [Father Pham] coming down here. He do stupid rules. "

With Biloxi police watching, Vietnamese Martyrs parishioners demanded Father Pham tell them what happened to more happened to $530,000.

Siem Nguyen spoke through an interpreter. "We have a financial committee with the funds of the church. That has a responsibility. He came in and within a short period of time, he's removed the funds from one bank account to another bank account without consulting the financial council. "

Biloxi Catholic Diocese Spokesperson Shirley Henderson said the way the church was conducting its financial affairs was not acceptable. "These parishioners put the parish money into secret accounts that the priest did not know about. When that was discovered, it was rectified. The priest is accountable for the parish moneys."

Henderson says now only the priest and a Diocese official have the ability to access the account.

However, some parishioners say the confusion could have been avoided if the priest were willing to discuss the situation out with them.

"This is in a savings in the parish name. Nobody ever touches it, " said Sabrina Hoang, parishioner. "All it did was collect interest. He didn't come to us and ask us 'Why is there that money there? Why is that money there and not in with the parish money?' He didn't come to us to allow us to explain our side of the story. His motto is shoot first and ask later."

Parishioners say they've also been trying to get answers from their priest about profits from a recent festival. Instead they say they got a change of the church locks and a letter from Bishop Roger Morin dissolving the parish and financial councils.

"We voted for the parish council and the financial council," said Siam Nguyen. "How can he dismiss it without even consulting us since we voted for them and their term isn't over yet?"

She said, "The people of the parish have put their sweat and tears into it from penny to penny to build this church. All these years no one has ever changed the keys of the church. He [Father Pham] is supposed to be our spiritual leader. How would he have the responsibility to change the keys of the church?"

In his letter, Bishop Morin said it would be best for the membership of the councils to be completely refreshed because the Diocese has limits on how long people should serve. He said it would be up Father Jimmy Pham to reconstitute the groups in whatever way he deems best for the parish.

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