Father Michael Teo to step down as St Joseph’s Church rector amid stained glass row

The facade of St Joseph's church, with ongoing construction work for a stained glass restoration.

The Singapore rector embroiled in a row with local Catholic church leaders over a stained glass project said that he will step down from his post as ordered but that he will file an appeal with authorities in Rome.

In a statement on Saturday, St. Joseph's Church rector Reverend Father Michael Teo said that his petition seeking the revocation of the order for his removal was rejected by Singapore archbishop William Goh in a letter Teo received on Friday.

The 76-year-old priest said that he will be leaving St. Joseph’s Church, where he has been rector for the past 12 years, with “deep sorrow, disappointment and protest”. 

Earlier this month, Goh ordered Teo to leave his post by noon of Tuesday, 20 August, after the reverend filed a police report with the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), Singapore’s white collar crime investigation agency, in June, over a stained glass project reportedly costing $1.2 million.

According to Teo’s statement, Reverend Father John Bosco Peirera will be taking over as rector of St. Joseph’s Church.

Meanwhile, instead of reporting to the Church of St Theresa in Kampong Bahru as ordered by Goh, Teo said he will reside with his family instead to help “regain my composure and restore my personal wellbeing, which has been greatly damaged by recent action(s) taken against me”.

Earlier, Teo told his parishioners that he had been obliged to file a police report about possible wrongdoing in relation to the project to restore stained glass panels at St. Joseph’s, as work on it had remained unfinished and his pleas for answers from local church leaders "fell on deaf ears".

Parishioners have rallied behind Teo with some 400 having signed the petition to revoke the order removal against him.

Goh said in a pastoral letter on Tuesday that Teo had to be removed to avoid civil suits from being filed against the church.

The archbishop also said that his team "struggled to mediate a just and amicable settlement" of differences among stakeholders so that work on the project could proceed according to plan.

In response that same day, Teo pointed out that his being fired would not prevent the CAD from recommending the filing of a criminal case regarding the project if so warranted.

Both sides have been unable to reveal more details about the precise nature of suspected wrongdoing as the case is currently before the CAD. 

Teo said in his statement Saturday that he will be appealing to Rome to “finally resolve this matter”.