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Bishop’s ordination a shot in arm for typhoon survivors

PALO (Agencies) : The ordination of a new bishop from the typhoon-

devastated province of Leyte has buoyed the spirits of disaster victims, UCAN reported.

Hundreds of priests and Church personnel attended the ordination of Father Oscar Florencio as a bishop on September 4 at the Palo Metropolitan Cathedral, where Pope Francis met with disaster victims during his visit to The Philippines in January.

Bishop Florencio served as the relief operation coordinator of Palo archdiocese in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), leading Church relief and aid programmes in distributing basic necessities to affected families.

The Leyte-born Bishop Florencio has been named as an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Cebu, where he was installed on September 7.

According to Father Chris Arthur Militante, the spokesperson for the Palo archdiocese, Bishop Florencio was instrumental in the relief and recovery efforts carried out by the Church during and after Typhoon Haiyan, which levelled large parts of the province in November 2013.

“He spearheaded the relief and rehabilitation units of the archdiocese. Being a rector, he also mobilised seminarians in various relief activities,” Father Militante related.

“He helped spur initial aid work to affected residents in Palo despite being a victim himself,” he added.

Local residents called the ordination of Bishop Florencio an inspiration, because he was one of their own.

“The ordination of our new bishop brings more blessings to all of us,” Aaron Almadro, who lost his parents during the typhoon, said.

Rey Garnace, who teaches in a school that sheltered thousands of displaced families during the disaster, called it is an “opportune time to have a Church leader who can relate to the economic and religious condition of the faithful.”

Bishop Florencio was born in the town of Capoocan on 5 February 1966. He was ordained a priest on 3 April 1990.

It was the first time in 28 years that the archdiocese of Palo has witnessed the ordination of a new bishop.

“I consider today’s event as a gift of God to the local Church,” Monsignor Ramon Aguilos, the chairperson of the Leyte-Samar Heritage Society, commented.

He added that when super Typhoon Haiyan struck, the archdiocese “fell flat, with structures in a shambles.”

The monsignor added, “The ordination is a recognition of the servant leadership these priests showed during the dark days of the disaster.”

He pointed out that the Church in Palo was both a victim and a survivor of the 2013 disaster that killed some 7,500 people.

He explained that the Church was not deterred from being a “wounded healer in the persons of the priests and sisters who were the source of inspiration, hope and consolation in the midst of despair.”

Monsignor Aguilos said, “What I consider as the best palpable gift is that one of us, a brother priest, has been elevated to the episcopacy.”

CBCP News reported the president of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, as saying to the newly-ordained bishop at the ordination, “Love the priests, the poor, the children and youth.” He added, “Always love your priests because if you will not love your priests, they might not love another one.”

He went on to urge the newly- ordained bishop to care for the priests, even those who have fallen and stumbled along their way because, he advised him, “Your face is a face of mercy.”

He then stressed the importance of giving his attention to the poor and marginalised. “Don’t make the poor distance themselves from you,” he said, adding that “at the sunset of our lives, the poor will judge us. They must be able to understand your works and recognise your voice.”

The ordaining bishops were the papal nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, and the archbishop of Palo, Archbishop John Du, together with Archbishop Villegas. Archbishop José Palma was also present.