Sunday, December 17, 2006


Tagbilaran City – December 13, 2006

To be extended an honor with such a grand magnitude as to involve the whole city of Tagbilaran, stopping on the one hand all other activities in order to concentrate on the affair of receiving me; and inviting the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines to come over here and play the active role of introducing my person and office to the citizens of Tagbilaran, is for me a dizzying experience, incredible in its unfolding. Bothered and bewildered, I have been asking the question: “Who am I to deserve all these?”

And yet, there you are, the generous individuals, officials of the city, who are geniuses in anticipating the need of one who is new in the place; persons who could feel and perceive the critical role of the bishop’s office in the temporal affairs of the citizens; sensitive persons who believe in the importance of introducing a new comer to the community. With one brilliant stroke you save me from otherwise going around the city, introducing myself as the new bishop of Tagbilaran. This for me is not just pure hospitality – it is a warm welcome. Thank you.

The office of the Bishop is constituted not for honor but for service. A bishop is clothed with all the regalia, not that he may be looked up to, but for all to perceive that ecclesiastical dignities are not to be clung on to, but to be stripped off for the sake of the people who are to be served, much like what our Lord did in the last supper. He took off his clothe as Lord and Master, and took on the rag of a slave, picked up a basin and pitcher of water, knelt before each of the Apostles, washing off the dirt from their feet, and kissed them. Distinctive work of a slave, but he was not ashamed to assume it. After all that was his mission when he said: “I came not to be served, but to serve.” Or, as Jesus declared after the washing of the feet: “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master’, rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn 13:12-14). Later, this act of Jesus who humbling himself to serve his brothers was picked up by St. Paul, exhorting the early communities to follow the kenosis of Christ. He said: “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus. Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2: 6-8).

It is within this framework of service that I acceded to come to Tagbilaran. This happened last October 17, 2006, when the Holy Father instructed me to come here. Drilled in the virtue of obedience, I consented to his instruction. After all, a wish of the father is a command to the child. And so, I am here. I am here within the framework of service. Briefly expressed, I come here to see how the faith is lived and expressed in a Boholano way so that I too could live and express the Christian faith in a Boholano way. Your faith and my faith, welded together in the dynamics of study, reflection and prayer; our listening together to each other, studying together, caring for the poor, the sick and the marginalized in society , these acts will blend together, so I hope, as a beautiful hymn to praise our God, the be-all and end-all of everything.

It is also within this framework that I came to establish a relationship you, the representatives of the State. The State is a perfect society that looks into the common good of the citizens in the here and now, the temporal order of things. The Church is not against the State; nor the office of Bishops set up to oppose civil policies.. I am here to look after the faith of the People as well as the conduct that naturally flows from the faith. In the act of complying this work, it may happen that conflicts may occur. But I believe that these conflicts could only be in the level of perception. Human that we are, our perception of realities may not always square off; interpretations may differ. But they can easily be resolved, not by the invocation of the principle of separation of Church and State, but by serious dialogues. Here, the need for always the keeping the communication open for both sides is called for. The Church ever listening to the State, the State ever listening to the Church: that is the ideal of any good working relationship. After all, we are serving a common subject: the people.

Again, thank you for your warm welcome and great hospitality.


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