HOMILY: The Vicariate of Jolo is a privileged place for inter-religious dialogue

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Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI. MindaNews file photo by TOTO LOZANO

(Homily delivered by Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, OMII, Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Cotabato during tthe  Episcopal Ordination Of Fr. Charlie Inzon, O.M.I at the immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City on 21 May 2020) 

Beloved Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Happy Oblate Day! Today is the Feast of St. Eugene de Mazenod, the Founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He died in France on May 21, 1861.

In a few moments, one of St. Eugene’s spiritual sons, our own Fr. Charlie Inzon, O.M.I., will be consecrated as a Bishop.

A Rare Event – Day of the Lord 

Fr. Charlie is only the 6th Bishop to be consecrated in Cotabato City in the past 69 years.

The first Bishop ordained here Fr. Gerard Mongeau, O.M.I. He was ordained Bishop of the new Prelature of Cotabato in 1951. Eighteen years later in 1969 Fr. Antonino Nepomuceno, O.M.I. was ordained as Auxiliary Bishop of Cotabato. Another nineteen years later in 1988 Fr. Romulo de la Cruz, from our Cotabato diocesan Clergy, was consecrated as Coadjutor Bishop of the Prelature of Isabela, Basilan. And still another 18 years later in 2006 Fr. Jose Colin Bagaforo, also from our diocesan clergy, was ordained as Auxiliary Bishop of Cotabato. Finally today after another 14 years, Fr. Charlie Inzon, O.M.I., former Philippine Oblate Provincial, is being consecrated. And it is another blessing from the Lord that Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, now Bishop of Kidapawan, is a co-consecrator of Fr. Charlie.

Truly today is a day of blessings, a wonderful day of the Lord!

My brothers and sisters, our ordinary knowledge about a bishop is that he is the head of all the faithful in the diocese, laity, religious brothers and sisters, and all the priests. We know that he wears a special cassock, a red cap and a red sash, a miter. He uses a baston or pastoral staff (crozier).

The Tasks of a Bishop – Tria Munera

But what does a bishop really do? What will Bishop Cha really do when he takes possession of the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo on May 28?

The answer to the question is really simple. The main work of a Bishop is to teach, to sanctify, and to rule the people of God in his diocese for the sake of their salvation (1). He must be united with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and with the other Bishops in the Church of God (2).

To teach, to sanctify, to rule over all the faithful for the sake of their salvation – those are the principal tasks of a Bishop. Simple answer, but you can see right away how difficult the work is. He is to be the guide of the faithful on the path “to eternal beatitude”(3). He cannot lead the people to the wrong path.

This is why the Bishop has to be outstanding in faith and good morals. He has to be outstanding in piety and zeal for souls. He has to be outstanding in wisdom, prudence, and intelligence (4).

That is also why the Holy Father has to choose very well who is to be a bishop.

Proclaiming the Good News of Jesus

In our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles (4:8-12), Peter heals a man who has been a cripple from birth. The leaders of Israel angrily confront him and demand: “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly declares that Jesus whom they had crucified has risen from the dead. It is by the power and in the name of Jesus that the crippled man is now able to jump up and walk.

Here, Peter is presenting to us the very heart of the Bishop’s task to teach the faithful. And this is to proclaim the Good News: Jesus has died. He has risen from the dead. Jesus is our Savior.

Who is a Bishop – Good Shepherd and Pastoral Charity

The Gospel today from the Gospel according St. John (10:11- 18), has the most beautiful description of Jesus.

Jesus himself says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” Ako’y ang Mabuting Pastol. He guides the flock to verdant pasture and flowing water. We are his sheep, his flock. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has great concern for us. He protects us from evil. He knows everyone of us. If we stray from him, he will find us and carry us on his shoulders. He will unite all of us under one sheepfold. He is willing to lay down his life for us, “so that we might have life and have it abundantly.”

The image of Jesus as the good shepherd is the image of a Bishop.
That is why the pectoral cross of Pope Francis has the image of the Good Shepherd, carrying one sheep on his shoulders.

The Good Shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders is an image of Pastoral Charity, of the love of the Pastor for his flock (5). Pastoral charity reminds us of the words of St. Augustine who described the office of Bishop as an “office of love” (“Sit amoris officium”). It is love that flows necessarily into service. The Bishop is called to serve and not to be served. Like Jesus he washes the feet of others.

Pastoral charity impels the Bishop to be a Good Shepherd, concerned about everyone in his diocese. He has to know their situation in life. He must be able to relate with them in kindness and compassion, rich or poor, Christians, Lumads, Muslims and peoples of other faiths. For all the people of his diocese he is a servant leader and companion in the common journey to God’s Kingdom.

Teacher and Guide to Holiness

The 2nd Reading today adds another dimension to the work of a Bishop. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God and we are. Beloved, we are God’s children now” (1 Jn. 3:1-2). Through our Baptism, we became children of God. We are now children of grace, not children of evil and darkness. We are Christians. We are disciples of Christ. By Baptism we are called to holiness.

For even greater reason, the Bishop is called to be holy. He is called to guide his people to holiness. This is at the heart of his work of teaching the people, of sanctifying them, of being their Shepherd. The Bishop has to guide them to the path of holiness, the path of truth and justice, the path of love – in short, to peace and joy in the Kingdom of God(6).

This task of the Bishop is truly challenging. That is why only a crazy priest would ever want to be a bishop. Every priest should fear about becoming a bishop. A priest may be suitable, but none can be truly deserving and worthy.

Fraternal Words to Fr.Charlie Inzon, O.M.I. 

My brothers and Sisters, may I now address a few words to Fr. Cha Inzon, O.M.I.

My brother Oblate, Fr. Cha, there are two special dimensions in your future life and ministry as Bishop of Jolo. I would simply remind you of them. You are aware of these two dimensions since you were a missionary there for several years.

Be Like Jesus the Poor Man

The first is the option of Jesus for the Poor. He walked among the poor, he performed his miracles mostly on behalf of the poor. He lived as a poor man. In fact, the Synod of Bishops on the Life and Ministry of Bishops in 2001, described a true Bishop as a vir pauper, a poor man after the example of the poor Jesus (7).

In a few moments, Archbishop Lito will ask you: “Do you resolve, for the sake of the Lord’s name, to be welcoming and merciful to the poor, to strangers, and to all who are in need?” Your resolve will simply be a recommitment to the Oblate charism of proclaiming the Good News to the Poor.

Engage in Dialogue for Peace 

And the other dimension is also from the same Synod of Bishops. Writing his post-synodal exhortation, Pope John Paul II, now Saint, said: “The Synod of Bishops emphasized the importance of inter-religious dialogue for peace and asked the Bishops to commit themselves to engage in this important activity in their respective dioceses” (8). The Vicariate of Jolo, which covers the two provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, is a privileged place for inter-religious dialogue. As a servant leader of all the peoples of your Vicariate, the Holy Spirit is surely calling you to lead in this dialogue for peace and harmony.

May Our Blessed Mother and St. Eugene intercede for you every   day of your episcopal life. Our best wishes and prayers go with you. Congratulations, Fr. Cha!

End Notes:

  1. See Vatican II, Lumen Gentium [LG], 1964, 20; Codex Iuris Canonici, 1983,  Canon 375 par. 1-2; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. 1997, nos. 888-896.
  2. See LG, no. 22; Canon par. 2; Catechism, no. 883; Congregation for Bishops, Apostolorum Successores, Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, 2004, no. 12.
  3. LG, no. 21
  4. Cf. Canon 378 par. 1.
  5. Cf. Apostolorum Successores, no. 38.
  6. See Apostolorum Successores, nos. 33-34.
  7. Pope John Paul II, Post-Synodal Exhortation, Pastores Gregis, 2003, no. 20; see also Apostolorum Successores, no. 45. [Trivia note: At the end of the Synod of Bishops in 2001 on the Life and Ministry of Bishops, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Rio de Janeiro and I were both elected to the Ordinary Council of the Synod Secretariat. The group of 15 members was tasked to help Pope John II to write his post-synodal exhortation and to prepare for the next Synod.
  8. Pastores Gregis, no. 68.
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