KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 20 Feb) – At 4:47 p.m. Wednesday, Marbel Bishop Emeritus Dinualdo Gutierrez was finally laid to rest by thousands of Catholic faithful here, exactly 80 years after his birth.
The prelate, who was born in Romblon on February 20, 1939, was buried at the back of the Christ the King Cathedral at the compound of the St. Anthony of Padua Parish here.
Gutierrez led the Diocese of Marbel for 35 years, having been appointed bishop on November 15, 1982.
The cathedral was fully packed with people during the funeral mass presided by Cotabato Archbishop Angelito Lampon, con-celebrated with about 100 diocesan and congregational priests led by Marbel Bishop Cerilo “Allan” Casicas.
Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao and Bishop Emeritus Vicente Navarra of Bacolod also attended the funeral rites.
Three giant LCD screens were mounted outside the church for the overflowing crowd to witness the funeral mass.
The religious and laypersons greeted the late bishop a happy birthday during the funeral rites.
Father Romeo Buenaobra, vicar general of the Diocese of Marbel, said Gutierrez held the record “as the longest staying diocesan bishop in the country who was not transferred elsewhere.”
“He became a bishop at 42, the youngest bishop at that time,” Buenaobra said.
Gutierrez only served the Diocese of Marbel ever since.
“He is unique, one of a kind. As a bishop, like Christ, he was a good shepherd. We will sorely miss him but his memories will remain in our hearts,” said Buenaobra.
Gutierrez was the first Filipino bishop Vatican appointed to Marbel diocese. The first two bishops were Passionist missionaries Quentin Olwell (1961-1969) and Reginald Arliss (1970-1981).
The diocese has pastoral jurisdiction over the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani and parts of Sultan Kudarat, and the cities of General Santos and Koronadal.
Gutierrez died on February 10. He was suffering from prostate cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Years prior to his death, he was seen attending events with a small oxygen tank always ready at his side.
His wake was held at the parish gymnasium at the back of the cathedral.
Gutierrez stayed on as bishop after the mandatory retirement age of 75. Bishop Casicas formally replaced him in July last year.
Gutierrez led the local Catholic Church’s opposition against the Tampakan project, the largest known undeveloped copper-gold project in Southeast Asia pursed by Sagittarius Mines, Inc.
Sagittarius Mines’ bid to excavate the deposits has been hobbled by the open-pit mining ban of South Cotabato province, which Gutierrez had strongly backed on concerns over the environment and food security.
Gutierrez had served as chairperson of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ National Secretariat for Social Action.
Father Angel Buenavides said the different parishes brought food to celebrate the prelate’s birthday following the funeral rites. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)