New Manila prelate vows to be a ‘listening shepherd’ to his flock

Jose Torres Jr.   By Jose Torres Jr. for CNA

Cardinal Jose Advincula (right) is led to his cathedra inside the Manila Cathedral by Archbishop Charles Brown, papal nuncio to the Philippines, during his installation as new prelate of the Archdiocese of Manila on June 24, 2021. / Jose Torres Jr. / LiCAS News

Manila, Philippines, Jun 25, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Jose Advincula, the new archbishop of the Archdiocese of Manila, vowed to be “a listening shepherd” as he starts this week to lead his new flock in the face of pastoral challenges.

The cardinal was installed on Thursday, June 24, as archbishop of the oldest diocese in the Philippines, covering five cities and four dioceses in surrounding provinces.

The 69-year-old archbishop is now pastor to at least three million Catholics in 86 parishes, with more than 600 priests and religious.

In his homily during his installation at the Manila Cathedral, the prelate noted the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Church.

“This scourge has crippled us in many ways; but it has enabled us, too, in more creative ways and has made us see clearly the things that we value most in our lives,” he said.

Only up to 400 people were allowed to attend the ceremonies, due to health restrictions brought about by the pandemic.

Cardinal Advincula then continued to comment how some people might have actually thought “that God has abandoned us” during the pandemic.

“But instead, for us, steadfast believers, it simply shows forth God’s power in the midst of our helplessness; for we see God as our only help in our helplessness,” said the cardinal.

He said the pandemic, and even his installation as the new archbishop of Manila, could have been part of “God’s mysterious design” and an “event of great historic significance” for the local Church.

“However, let us not get stuck in the great historic significance,” he said. “It behooves us to ask ourselves: Where are we Filipinos as a Christian people after 500 years of Christianity?”

The Philippines this year marks the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the country.

“As Filipinos, we also ask ourselves: What has happened to Manila after 450 years since she became a city?” said the cardinal.

“This is an event that should also help us reflect how significant Manila is in the formation of our values as a Filipino nation towards true communion and authentic progress,” he added.

He said “the pastoral challenge far outweighs the significance of all these historic events converging today.”

“All of us, Filipinos, are called to take up such a challenge, in our respective ministry or area of responsibility, most especially for us leaders of our nation – both in the Church and in the civil government,” said Cardinal Advincula.

“I have nothing new to tell you today,” said the cardinal, “except my commitment to renew my heart’s desire to be a listening shepherd to the flock entrusted to my care.”

He then asked for the support of the clergy, consecrated persons, and the faithful of the archdiocese.

“Let me be a listening shepherd to you all, and let us learn from one another how to listen after the heart of Christ our Good Shepherd,” he said.

He then appealed for prayers “that I may have a heart after that of Christ our Good Shepherd — a listening shepherd to Christ’s bidding — ever ready to suffer for and serve Christ’s sheep.”

“I am deeply aware how I fall short of people’s expectations of me, how unworthy and inadequate I am in many ways,” he said.

“I pray that Christ grants me the grace to be a listening shepherd to His flock so that I can journey with you and lead you all back to Christ our Good Shepherd,” he said.

The cardinal turned emotional as he thanked the priests, consecrated persons and the laity of the Archdiocese of Capiz in the central Philippines, where he served for the past nine years.

“Thank you so much for teaching me to be a shepherd who listens,” he said.

“For 20 years of being your bishop, I tried to be a listening shepherd to you; yet, as you know well, there is still a lot that I should learn,” he said.

More than 30 bishops and around 200 priests from all over the archdiocese, some from the Diocese of Capiz in the central Philippines, took part in the celebration of the installation of the archbishop.

The ceremony coincided with the celebration of the 450th anniversary of the founding of the city of Manila.

Cardinal Advincula admitted he never expected to be named a cardinal or to lead the Archdiocese of Manila.

“When Pope Francis named me a cardinal and eventually appointed me as archbishop of Manila, I must confess I was simply overwhelmed by such honor and responsibility,” he said.

“I have had many restless days and sleepless nights as I confronted my doubts and fears,” he added.

He said his episcopal motto “Audiam (I will listen)” has guided him through his episcopate.

“Like Moses and the prophet Jeremiah, I am not a good speaker. Despite their shortcomings, however, God had empowered them to speak on His behalf and show forth His saving power,” said the cardinal.

He earlier admitted that he could not be as vocal on issues as his late mentor, Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila who was his teacher in the seminary.

Cardinal Sin was one of the key figures during the 1986 “People Power” revolution that ended the almost-two-decade rule of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

From the peripheries

Cardinal Advincula was born on March 30, 1952, in the town of Dumalag, Capiz province, to Jose Firmalino Advincula and Carmen Falsis Fuerte.

He studied at Saint Pius X Seminary High School in Roxas City, and stayed on after graduating to study philosophy. He then attended theology courses at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.

He later pursued a Master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling at the De La Salle University, and then studied canon law at the University of Santo Tomás and at the Angelicum in Rome, where he earned a licentiate in canon law.

Advincula was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Cápiz on April 14, 1976. He worked as spiritual director of the St. Pius X Seminary in Cápiz while also serving as professor and dean of studies.

After finishing his studies abroad, he returned to the Philippines and worked at the seminary of Nueva Segovia in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, and in the regional seminary of Jaro.

In 1995, he became rector of the St. Pius X Seminary of Cápiz while also holding positions in the administration of the archdiocese as defender of the bond, promoter of justice, and judicial vicar.

In 1999, he was assigned as parish priest of Santo Tomás de Villanueva Parish in Dao, Capiz.

Saint Pope John Paul II appointed Advincula bishop of San Carlos on July 25, 2001. He received his episcopal consecration on Sept. 8, 2001.

On Nov. 9, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI named him archbishop of Cápiz.

He has been a member of the Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith and Commission for Indigenous Peoples in the Philippine bishops’ conference.

Pope Francis elevated him to cardinal on Nov. 28, 2020, assigning him as a cardinal priest to San Vigilio in Via Paolo Di Dono.

Cardinal Advincula was not able to attend the consistory because of health restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Dec. 16, 2020, he was named a member of the Congregation for the Clergy in the Vatican.

In lieu of the November 2020 consistory, Cardinal Advincula received his “red hat” and ring from Archbishop Charles Brown, apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, on June 18, 2021, at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Roxas City in the central Philippines.

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