Archdiocese of Cebu opens jubilee year

In an elaborate yet solemn ceremony at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral this city, Cebu Archbishop Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal opened the year-long celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of the establishment of the Archdiocese of Cebu yesterday.

With President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales, and Papal Nuncio Archbishop Joseph Edward Adams among other dignitaries in attendance, Cardinal Vidal opened the jubilee door of the cathedral at 4:30 in the afternoon to mark the beginning of the holy year.

An estimated 5,000 people, including official delegates from the 144 parishes, witnessed the event, filling the church and spilling into the plaza and surrounding streets, unmindful of the threat of overcast skies that had, an hour earlier, unloaded a downpour that drenched the city’s downtown district.

Forty-two concelebrating archbishops and bishops, headed by CBCP president and Jaro Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, himself Cardinal Vidal’s first auxiliary bishop in Cebu, concelebrated the mass, together with more than 300 diocesan and religious priests.

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and Cebu City Acting Mayor Michael Ram and papal awardees joined the cardinal’s entourage in the opening of and entering through the jubilee door.
A message of Pope Benedict XVI, through the Vatican’s Secretary of State Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone was read at the beginning of the mass in the extensively-refurbished metropolitan cathedral that features ornate gilt retablos, sparkling chandeliers, and electronic carillons.

“With sentiments of affection, His Holiness commends all of you to the loving intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and cordially imparts his apostolic blessing,” said the message of Cardinal Bertone in a letter he sent to the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila.

In his homily, Cardinal Vidal touched on several themes, foremost of which was a citation of the many blessings that the archdiocese had received in the last 75 years.

He honored the memory of the first two archbishops of Cebu, Msgr. Gabriel M. Reyes, and his immediate predecessor, Julio R. Cardinal Rosales, “about whom,” the cardinal remarked, “I cannot say well enough.”

Archbishop Gabriel M. Reyes, who would later become the first Filipino Archbishop of Manila, was appointed Cebu’s first archbishop when Pope Pius XI signed the papal bull in Rome on April 28, 1934 elevating Cebu into an archdiocese, after being a suffragan diocese of Manila for 339 years.

Cardinal Vidal also cited as blessing for the local church the twenty-one Cebuano clergymen who became bishops since 1934, two of whom became Papal Nuncios, the brothers Padilla, the older Osbaldo being the first ever Filipino nuncio, and younger brother Francisco, now the papal envoy in New Guinea.

He also pointed out the increase of parishes established, now numbering 144, the presence of men and women religious congregations, including six contemplative communities which he describes as “the power-houses” of prayer” and the many church institutions that have continually served Cebu in the past 75 years.

And paying tribute to the vibrant Cebuano laity, the archbishop commended the lay movements as well as the faithful parishioners in the 144 parishes who “have endeavored to be sincere in their devotion, always grounded on sound doctrine and guided by strict discipline.”

But his strident recital of the present realities that the church continues to grapple with took a more pointed note as he said this in front of local politicians who figured in those issues.

One issue focused on reproductive health and family and life, with his quotation of the late John Paul II’s homily during his historic Cebu visit in 1981, stating that “marriage must be open to the transmission of life.”

Said at the earlier part of his homily as he remembered the late pontiff, he revisited the same theme in his recitation of “killings” in the later portion of his homily in the presence of some Cebuano legislators who supported the church-opposed bill.

The other social issues that he touched involved the vigilante killings that marred Cebu City in the past few years, the greed and profit in the name of development, homelessness and ejections without relocation, gambling through lottery, illegal drugs, pornography on stage and screen, and smuggling and graft and corruption.

In the last part of the homily, Cardinal Vidal made a moving public appeal for forgiveness for himself, his auxiliary bishops and the clergy for past mistakes.

Almost choking up, he asked to “forgive us for whatever wrong we have done, and for whatever right we failed to do.”

“Here and now, and from now on, at 75 the Archdiocese of Cebu is resolved … to do more, know more, have more in order to have,” quoting Paul VI, “more law-abiding Christians and God-loving citizens.”

Towards the end of the mass, the papal nuncio also gave his congratulatory message. A decree granting plenary indulgence to all who participated in the opening mass that day was also read by the vice-chancellor, Msgr. Renato Beltran.

Meanwhile, a separate decree is also issued by Rome’s Major Penitentiary granting plenary indulgence to the faithful who will make a pilgrimage to the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral during the holy year, which would end April 28, 2010.

The hour-and-half long celebration was capped with a fireworks display at the plaza fronting the nearby cathedral museum. (MSM)