2,600 priests, bishops on ‘holiness’ retreat in Cebu City
CEBU CITY — Some 2,600 priests and bishops from all over the Philippines are in Cebu City for the three-day National Retreat for Priests (NRP) 2023, the biggest gathering of the clergy after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The gathering, which started on Tuesday, Nov. 7, included at least 30 bishops and carries the theme “Priesthood: a call for holiness.”
Priests consider this gathering as a renewal and to improve the quality of the clergy in the Philippines amid issues confronting the Catholic faithful.
For Fr. Roniel Sulit of the Archdiocese of Lipa, the gathering is a way for colleague priests to be together after the pandemic.
He said seeing their elder priests would be an inspiration for him and others, who were recently ordained, to bolster their commitment to stay on with priesthood.
“It is part of our formation. The Church is not asleep. We are talking about issues of society also,” he said.
With more than 200,000 followers online, Sulit is a popular young priest who became famous by preaching through social media posts.
Sulit, 31, was ordained in December 2019 about a few months before COVID-19 struck the world.
Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani Jr. said priesthood is a gift from God and priests should not demand privileges from the people.
Priests, he said, should also remember not to demand to be treated in a very special way nor expect to be paid very well for their services.
“If these 2,600 priests really become holier through this retreat, fantastic! You know the quality of the Christian life of a parish or diocese depends largely on the quality of the priest who serves there. If the priest is saintly, then the people are holy. If the priest is only holy, then the people will be so-so,” he said.
Fe Barino, Archdiocese of Cebu Commission on the Laity and overall chair of the NRP2023 organizing committee, said priests who arrived in Cebu were very excited about the retreat and they are eager in organizing the event.
Even though the activities are only for the priests, Barino said the event would also help improve the image of priests that is constantly being bombarded with negative news.
“People should realize how important the priests are and we really should pray for them. And for us lay volunteers, we saw this as a way of giving back and a way of showing our love for the priests,” Barino said.
The retreat started with a Holy Mass celebrated by Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Charles Brown, along with Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma as well as Jaro Archbishop Jose Romeo Lazo.
Among the international speakers in the retreat were Irish nun Sr. Briege McKenna and Fr. Pablo Escriva de Romani of Spain.