CBCP proclaims new president

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) announced Cebu as its’ new president after an election that took place yesterday, July 9 during the three-day 103rd plenary assembly held at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila.

Palma, the 61-year-old current vice president of the organization will assume post of outgoing CBCP president Tandag, Surigao del Sur Bishop Nereo P. Odchimar starting December 1 of the current year. Odchimar, who did not pursue re-election, will end his term on November 30.

The catholic organization follows the tradition of the vice president normally succeeding the president who can both serve for a minimum of two terms. The election is done every two years.

CBCP also discussed several critical issues during the assembly including the churchs’ stand against Reproductive Health (RH) Bill and the controversial donation of sports utility vehicles involving several bishops and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

Retiring president Odchimar shared his term has been made difficult “because of the situation and issues being raised.”

Local government officials and church leaders expressed their support to Palma who is bound to face the same controversies.

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said he is the right person chosen at the right time. She expressed her support via a text message sent to Cebu Daily News (CDN) “We are confident in his ability to lead the CBCP during these crucial times,”. “We have seen his brand of principled and stead leadership right here in Cebu,” she added.

Mayor Michael Rama of Cebu City also congratulated Palma saying Cebu City is honored and blessed by his appointment. “We extend our support to Archbishop Palma in leading CBCP endeavors, which will help enhance the quality of life and spiritual life of the Filipinos,” Rama said.

His colleagues also extend their congratulations. Msgr. Achilles Dakay, media liaison officer of the archdiocese, said “We welcome with great joy his election as the new CBCP president. However, the responsibilities laid upon him are quite heavy. Let us help him,” he told CDN over the phone.

Meanwhile, 50-year-old Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas will succeed Palma as CBCP’s vice president. Other elected officials during the plenary assembly were Dumaguete Bishop John Du, assuming the post of Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco as treasurer, and Monsignor Joselito Asis as the new assistant secretary-general and assistant treasurer succeeding Msgr. Juanito Figura from the Archdiocese of Jaro.

Palma came from the Archdiocese of Jaro in Iloilo. He was ordained to the priesthood on August 21, 1976 and named Auxiliary Bishop of Cebu on November 28, 1997. At age 47, he was ordained to the episcopacy and named bishop of the Diocese of Calbayog on January 13, 1999. He became Archbishop of Palo on March 18, 2006 and later appointed Archbishop of Cebu on October 15, 2010, according to CBCP news.

As president, Palma plans to “foster solidarity among the bishops” and implement pastoral directives from the Catholic Church. On a phone interview of CDN, he calls for the people praying for him as he leads the most influential organization of the catholic church.