Cebu archdiocese, biggest in PH, to be split into 3
CEBU CITY—Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma has announced the church’s resolve to split the Archdiocese of Cebu, the country’s biggest, in a bid to serve more people in far-flung areas.
“I think it’s high time. It’s inevitable that the huge Cebu (archdiocese) is ready for blossoming,” said the 72-year-old prelate in an online forum organized by Cebu Caritas Inc. last week.
Palma said a committee was created to look into the local church’s vision which was first floated during the time of his predecessor, the late Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.The archdiocese coined the word “Sugbuswak” which was derived from “Cebu” and “buswak,” relating to the Cebu archdiocese’s readiness to blossom like a flower.
Palma believed that dividing the archdiocese would benefit both the priests and the people.
He cited instances when he had to travel for several hours just to reach a church in remote areas of Cebu.
In the same way, Palma said priests or laypeople, who wanted to raise some concerns, spent so much time in order to visit him at the Archbishop’s Residence in Cebu City.
“If someone would invite me for Mass (in the province), I usually leave the city, say around 6:30 a.m. and I arrive around 10 a.m. Then we have lunch, talk for a short while with the priests and laypeople, then I go back home,” Palma said.
“Also, if people need to see me, how long would it take them to reach me here? I pity them,” he added.
Palma said having new dioceses would bring the bishop closer to its people.
At present, the Cebu archdiocese has at least 176 parishes, more than 400 diocesan priests, and around 225 religious priests serving at least 3.8 million lay Catholics in Cebu, dubbed the “cradle of Christianity in the Far East.”
A committee, Palma said, is gathering data and conducting interviews to find out how to implement the split.
They would then submit the proposed setup to the apostolic nuncio to the Philippines before sending it to the Vatican for deliberation.
If approved, the Archdiocese of Cebu would be reduced to a small church while two dioceses—North Cebu and South Cebu—would be created.
Palma would lead the Cebu archdiocese while two bishops would be appointed by the Pope to shepherd the two dioceses.
If the split would proceed, Palma said he was eager to find more leaders among priests who could sit in key positions in the two other dioceses.
Cebu currently has two active bishops who serve as Palma’s auxiliaries: Midyphil Billones and Ruben Labajo. INQ
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