Labayen, bishop of Church of the Poor; 89
LUCENA CITY—With the death of former Infanta Bishop Julio Xavier Labayen on Wednesday, the poor have lost a true leader of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, a priest in Quezon province said.
Fr. Pete Montallana, a priest serving the Prelature of Infanta in Quezon, remembered Labayen as a “true bishop of the Church of the Poor.”
“He initiated that noble and sacred concept of the Church as sanctuary of the poor, which was eventually adopted by the Catholic Church during the Plenary Council in 1991,” Montallana said in a telephone interview.
Bishop Bernardino C. Cortez, D.D., head of the Prelature of Infanta, announced Labayen’s death on the prelature’s Facebook page on Wednesday.
Labayen, born on July 23, 1926, in Talisay City in Negros Occidental province, was ordained priest on July 4, 1955. On July 26, 1966, he was appointed Prelate of the Prelature of Infanta.
Labayen was the first national director of the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, which he led from 1966 to 1982.
Labayen is best remembered as the voice of the militant Church during the dark years of martial law and among the leaders of the Catholic Church who stood up against the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
After his retirement as bishop in 2003, Labayen lived at the Alagad ni Maria Seminary in Antipolo.
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