CBCP approves split of Cebu archdiocese
CEBU CITY—Efforts to divide the biggest Roman Catholic archdiocese in the country into three smaller dioceses is gaining traction as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has approved the proposed split of the Archdiocese of Cebu during its plenary assembly in Kalibo, Aklan, last week.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma announced the development in a short video message posted on the local church’s website on Sunday.
“We are very much happy to announce that our proposed ‘Sugbuswak’ was unanimously approved by all the bishops. We will continue to work to bring to completion what we aspire for,” the 72-year-old prelate said.
The archdiocese coined the word “Sugbuswak” which was derived from “Cebu” and “buswak,” relating to the archdiocese’s readiness to blossom like a flower.
After getting the CBCP’s nod, the proposed division will be forwarded to the Vatican for deliberation.
Before the formal presentation of the proposal, a series of consultations and studies were made to come up with significant findings and the feasibility of forming another two dioceses in the Cebu archdiocese.
Closer to people
Palma earlier explained the church’s resolve to split the Cebu archdiocese to serve more people in far-flung areas.
A committee was created to look into the local church’s vision which was first floated during the time of Palma’s predecessor, the late Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.
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, would travel far 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.”
If the Sugbuswak is approved, the Archdiocese of Cebu would be reduced to a smaller 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.
Cebu currently has two active bishops who serve as Palma’s auxiliaries: Midyphil Billones and Ruben Labajo.