SAN PABLO City, Nov. 22, 2012? Most Rev. Pedro N. Bantigue, DD, one of the 48 Filipino bishops and one laity participants of the historic Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) was the last and the latest to go at a time when the council celebrates its Golden Anniversary.
At the time of his death on November 20, Bantigue, who will turn 93 on January 31, became the last and the latest Vatican II player to bid goodbye but his legacies which are hallmarks of the council’s spirit will live on.
Fresh from 4-year processes, prayers and theological debates/exchanges in Vatican II towards “Aggiornamento” (bringing up to date) or openness in the spirit of change in the Church, the prelate was appointed by Rome in 1967 to establish and pioneer the making of San Pablo, Laguna as a new diocese under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Archdiocese of Manila.
Unknown to many perhaps, Bantigue’s legacies as a true bred player of the council will linger and live on in the lives of the faithful in San Pablo Diocese.
According to Maryknoll Fr. James H. Kroeger, Missiology Theologian, author and professor, in his documentary “The Local Church of the Philippines and the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council” published in INSTA publication of San Jose Seminary, (Vol. 72), Bishop Bantigue was among 49 Filipino delegates in the 2nd Vatican Council and also among those who actively participated in the serious discussions of the Church in the Modern World and Marriage.
Kroeger said, based on his findings from the thirty-five volume document: “Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II”, which listed among others the actual participations of the 49 Filipino delegates during the council deliberations, Bantigue was actively involved particularly in Session III where he endorsed the document on the Church, Church in the Modern World and made written and oral interventions on the issue on Marriage.
Among the hallmarks of the Bishop’s intent of making up-to-date the Church of Laguna and making it upbeat in the challenges of missions, the prelate had embarked on projects to educate constituents and promote vocations.
During his watch, he established Minor and College seminaries and eventually owned a Theological Formation House for seminarians’ final preparations to priesthood in Tagaytay City. Today though, the minor seminary is no longer existent but the two other seminaries remained vibrant in terms of forming future clergies.
Bantigue, who had been personal secretary to the late Rufino Cardinal Santos of Manila for many years, had also systematized Catholic education in the diocese by creating Liceo Schools all over Laguna under one Director to facilitate over-all supervision and guidance.
Before he retired on July 12, 1995 everything was in place and organized. Today, the diocese has already produced its own 124 native clergy. There are now 66 seminarians, 1,787 catechists all over the diocese.
Religious missionaries have reached a total of 80 priests and 19 brothers, while the nuns have a total of 237.
There are now six Catholic colleges, 18 diocesan/parochial high schools; 18 high schools directed by religious; 13 diocesan/parochial elementary schools; 18 elementary schools run by religious, the total population of which is about 38,856.
Another indelible Vatican II imprint of the late bishop was his acquisition in 1975 and management of a mainstream Regional Community (Secular) Newspaper to widen the Church’s scope of bringing the Catholic faith to a far-reaching audience.
This newspaper (very unique only to San Pablo Diocese) which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary for over 50 years now bears the name “The Barangay” newsweekly.
“The Barangay” had sought to honor the native counterpart of the Blessed Mother, the “Birhen ng Barangay” (Our Lady of the Village). An old icon of this image is presently enthroned inside the EDSA Shrine Convent in Ortigas, Metro Manila and many others at the newspaper’s office in San Pablo City and homes of Catholics in Laguna.
The 52-year-old newspaper, truly a humble response to the Vatican II’s challenge has withered and still trying to overcome all internal and external trials through the years.
The Vatican II Council was initiated and opened by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962 and culminated by Pope Paul VI in 1965.
The wake of the late bishop’s remains is at the San Pablo Cathedral, in San Pablo City and interment would be on Monday, November 26 after the Funeral Mass at about 9:30 am. (Fr. Romulo O. Ponte)