MANILA, Feb. 13, 2013—If there is one of the great contributions of Pope Benedict XVI to the Philippines, it is perhaps the number of new Filipino archbishops and bishops that he appointed.
In nearly eight years as head of the Catholic Church, the pope has named 9 archbishops and 22 bishops to oversee the temporal affairs and accounts of local pastoral territories in the country.
Church records show that the pope’s first appointee was then Caceres Auxiliary Bishop José Rojas, Jr., in July 2005 and was later named bishop of Libmanan in May 2008.
Cagayan De Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, SJ, meanwhile, holds the record as the first archbishop to be appointed by the outgoing pontiff.
Rojas, like most of the country’s bishops, was one of those who were left in awe of the pope’s decision to resign.
Benedict XVI, 85, said last Monday that he lacks the strength to fulfill his duties and on Feb. 28, he will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.
“The pope has his own reason and I respect his decision to resign,” Rojas said.
Although appointed as head of the Diocese of Nueva Segovia by Blessed John Paul II, Archbishop Ernesto Salgado was the first Filipino to receive the “pallium”, from Benedict XVI in June 2005.
Pallium is a liturgical insignia of the archbishop made of white wool, which symbolizes the office of archbishop, particularly their bond and shared responsibility with the pope to be pastors in their regions.
According to Salgado, the pontiff, whom he personally met two times, has showed “great care” for the Filipinos.
“The Holy Father is very attentive to our needs… to the needs of the people. I admire his contribution to the Church and to our faith,” he said.
Nueva Segovia Auxiliary Bishop William Antonio, the pope’s last appointee that was ordained to the episcopate, said he could not help but be thankful for the trust that the pontiff has given him.
Antonio said he noticed about the pope’s “frailing” health condition when he met him in Rome few months after his ordination as bishop.
“It’s true that his mind is still sharp but physically he is already frail. I understand why he comes up with such decision (to resign),” he said.
The bishop also described the pope as a “saintly person” and has “solicitude” for the Philippine Catholic Church.
“The Philippines is really close to his heart,” said Antonio. “He is well versed about the issues in our country and the concerns of the church.”
Other archbishops appointed under Benedict XVI’s leadership include Jose Palma of Cebu, Romulo Valles of Davao, Sergio Utleg of Tuguegarao, Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle of Manila, Jose Advincula of Capiz, John Du of Palo and Rolando Tria Tirona of Caceres.
Aside from Rojas and Antonio, the 20 other bishops that the pope appointed in order of seniority in ordination to the episcopate are:
- Jacinto Jose of Urdaneta
- Renato Mayugba of Laoag
- Roberto Mallari of San Jose, Nueva Ecija
- Marlo Peralta of Alaminos
- Jose Colin Bagaforo, Auxiliary of Cotabato
- George Rimando, Auxiliary of Davao
- Rodolfo Beltran of San Fernando, La Union
- Pablo Virgilio David, Auxiliary of San Fernando, Pampanga
- Broderick Pabillo, Auxiliary of Manila
- Elenito Galido of Iligan
- Leopoldo Jaucian of Bangued
- Gilbert Garcera of Daet
- Francisco de Leon, Auxiliary of Antipolo
- Julius Tonel of Ipil
- Crispin Varquez of Borongan
- Gerardo Alminaza, Auxiliary of Jaro
- Joseph Nacua of Ilagan
- Jose Cabantan of Malaybalay
- Ruperto Santos of Balanga
- Jose Bantolo of Masbate
To date, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has 89 active and 39 honorary members assigned in 86 ecclesiastical territories.
Although he is not a member of the CBCP, the pope elevated Bernardito Auza to the ranks of archbishop in May 2008 and is currently serving as apostolic nuncio to Haiti.
Besides Auza, the Vatican has three other Filipinos appointed nuncios by John Paul II— Archbishops Adolfo Tito Yllana (Congo), and brothers Francisco Padilla (Tanzania) and Osvaldo Padilla, the apostolic nuncio in South Korea and Mongolia. (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews)