“We expect him to support the tri-people program of the prelature, seeing a stronger bond among the clergy and the faithful, strong advocacy for justice and peace, as well as good governance,” Rev. Laure Helar, vicar of the prelature, said.
Zamboanga Sibugay, a pre-dominantly Catholic province, is home to Christian settlers, Moro, and indigenous peoples.
The Prelature of Ipil has been without a bishop since last year following the appointment of then Ipil Bishop Antonio Ledesma as Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro. The Prelature has since been under the care of an administrator, Fr. Nador Hesulga.
Father Helar said he is confident that Bishop Tonel's experiences on dialogue may prove useful in the ongoing dialogue of the tri-peoples in the province especially with the kidnapping of Bossi last June 10.
“Being from Davao, we have lots of expectations from him,” Helar added.
Born in Davao City on Aug. 31, 1956, Tonel studied philosophy at Saint Francis Xavier Minor Seminary in Davao, and theology at the Central Seminary of the University of Santo Tomas, in Manila.
Ordained to the priesthood on April 12, 1980 in Davao at the age of 23, Tonel earned his Licentiate in Liturgical Theology at the Saint Anselmo Pontifical Institute of Liturgy in Rome.
He also served as director of the Archdiocesan Family Apostolate in Davao, then as rector of the Archdiocesan Seminary, and president of the Commission for Basic Ecclesiastical Communities.
For five years, he was also the rector of the Regional Major Seminary and since 2002, has been the vicar general of the archdiocese of Davao.
However, some priests see the new bishop as a conservative and added it may take “some time to adjust” to his style in leading the flock.
“He is conservative being University of Sto. Tomas-trained. We will have to adjust to his style,” was the comment of Fr. Andy Augustino of Diplahan Parish. Augustino was the parish priest for six years in San Pablo Parish where Bossi served until he was kidnapped.
In Davao, the newly-appointed bishop told Catholic radio DXGN Davao that he was elated over his appointment and that he would sit with and listen to his parishioners upon installation and appealed for the release of Fr. Bossi.
He called on Bossi’s captors to release the Italian priest whom he considers a “true gift to the church in the province.”
Priests should be respected as they are merely doing their role in the Church, he said, adding that the abduction is an injustice.
The bishop called for more prayers for the priest’s freedom.
The Prelature of Ipil was established as Territorial Prelature in 1979. Tonel will be the third prelate of Ipil and the first non-Jesuit. Bishop Federico O. Escaler, SJ, served the Prelature from 1980 up to his retirement in 1997. While Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, served the prelature from 28 June 1997 to 04 March 2006.
As a territorial prelature, Ipil is under direct papal jurisdiction and not under any diocese. The Philippines has five other such prelatures — Batanes-Babuyanes, Infanta, Isabela (in Basilan), Libmanan and Marawi.