MANILA, Philippines — The protégé of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas was appointed on Sunday as president of the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), succeeding Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.
At 52, Villegas will lead the 96 active and 40 honorary members of the bishops’ collegial body when Palma ends his term on Dec. 1, 2013. To succeed Villegas as vice president is Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles.
While the archbishop was known to have strong ties with the late former president Corazon Aquino, mother of President Benigno Aquino III, Villegas has been perceived as one who will not buckle down to the whims of the current administration.
Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz for one said he believed that Villegas would continue to speak up on issues whenever necessary and would not just bow down to anyone contradicting the Catholic Church teachings.
“One thing is certain, the archbishop will talk as needed, he will not keep quiet,” Cruz told the Philippine Daily Inquirer over the phone on Sunday. “This man is intelligent and courageous. He will exercise his [pastoral duties] and will put into action his qualifications,” he said.
Cruz cited a pronouncement that Villegas made amid the debate on the controversial reproductive health law, which he noted “had angered the Palace.”
“My dear youth, contraception is corruption. The use of government money, taxpayers’ money to give out contraceptive pills is corruption. Contraceptive pills teach us it is all right to have sex with someone provided you are safe from babies,” the archbishop had stated.
Villegas’ statement denouncing Aquino for supporting the RH measure was proof that he would continue to lead the Church in fighting other measures that would compromise values that the Church embraced, said Cruz.
“This means that he will speak when needed. He will speak his mind according to Church teachings,” he said.
“I know what I am talking about because when he was appointed the secretary of Cardinal Sin, we were already [working] together,” he added.
The former CBCP president and former archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan said he had seen how Villegas worked before and he was confident that the prelate will do a great job as the leader of the Church body.
“That’s why I even recommended him to take my place,” said Cruz, Villegas’ predecessor in the archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. Villegas succeeded Cruz when the latter retired in 2009.
The results of the elections were announced by the CBCP on the second day of its three-day annual plenary assembly at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Paco, Manila.
Palma was still eligible for another two-year term as the head of the Church body but prior the assembly, he already declared his intentions to step down from the CBCP leadership so that he could attend to his pastoral duties in the Cebu archdiocese, which will be hosting the International Eucharistic Congress in 2016.
Villegas, who was ordained priest by Sin in 1985 and auxiliary bishop of Manila in 2001, has a two-year tenure in office. Valles will also serve for two years. But by tradition, incumbent officials are reelected for a second term.
The assembly also elected on Sunday Fr. Marvin Mejia as the secretary general of the CBCP, succeeding Msgr. Joselito Asis.
Originally posted at 03:04 pm | Sunday, July 7, 2013