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Hawaii Catholics Protest $45 Million Sale Of Church Property

December 4, 1988

HONOLULU (AP) _ Clergy and parishioners of a Roman Catholic church Saturday criticized their bishop’s decision to sell to Japanese investors the ocean-front land on which their parish has worshiped since the 1830s.

The $45 million deal, which will result in the demolition of the copper- roofed, modernistic St. Augustine Church in the heart of Waikiki and the building of a new church nearby, was announced Friday by Bishop Joseph Ferrario of Honolulu.

Diocese offices were besieged with phone calls Friday and Saturday after news reports of the sale. The diocese hired a public relations firm to help field the calls.

An advertisement taken out in the major daily newspapers here Saturday urged Catholics to protest by writing to the Vatican in Rome, which would have the power to overturn Ferrario’s decision.

The church, built in 1962, is situated on a 50,000-square-foot parcel where the Sacred Hearts Fathers have led services since a thatched missionary church was built in the 1830s. Members of the order and the congregation complained that the deal went through without their approval.

″I thought they were going to take our feelings into consideration,″ said Adeline Trask, one of about 35 parish members invited to a meeting with the bishop in May to discuss unsolicited offers that were being made for the church property amid a land boom fueled by Japanese investments.

The purchaser announced Friday is Hama Kikaku, a Tokyo real estate company. The company agreed to allow the church to remain free of rent for 2 1/2 years while a new church is built several blocks away on property also owned by Hama Kikaku, the Honolulu Diocese said.

After the new church is built, $25 million will be left for a variety of educational and charitable causes, Ferrario said.

″I really think this use of real property is a real stewardship of our properties,″ he said. ″It’s a question of justice - the haves serving the have-nots, of respecting the rights of people of the parish.″

At $45 million, the property is going for $900 a square foot, compared with $400 a square foot in other recent sales of similar Waikiki property.

The Rev. Louis Boeynaems, a retired priest who served as St. Augustine Church pastor from 1980 to 1983, said, ″Many priests are flabbergasted that he (Ferrario) doesn’t consider the history of the place.″

Newspapers here reported that company officials could not be reached for comment on what they intended to do with the property, but there was speculation that a luxury hotel or condominiums would be built. The property is across the street from Waikiki beach, whereas the new site the church would be given is several blocks from the beach.

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