Joy and sadness greet changing of the guard

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Thursday, January 13, 2011


AS ARCHBISHOP E-meritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal formally turned over his pastoral staff to Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, the faithful observing yesterday’s rites felt a sense of awe and joy as the Cebu archdiocese received a new leader.

Monsignors and clergymen of the Archdioceses of Cebu, Calbayog and Palo, along with more than 5,000 people inside the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, applauded Palma as he was led by Vidal and Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales to the archbishop’s seat.

Palma’s 83-year-old mother Ester was exceptionally proud of her son.

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“I am very happy and proud that God has blessed me with a son who will serve his faithful flock here in Cebu,” she said in Ilonggo.

Mixed emotions

Ester hopes Palma will receive blessings of good luck and health as he faces challenges in handling Cebu’s large Catholic community.

Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas (Cebu, 1st district) also welcomed Palma with open arms.

“I am sure his leadership and his goodness will help lead the Cebuanos because the archdioceses of Samar and Leyte can testify to his good works,” he said.

Although yesterday’s mood was overall joyous, some people like Ricardo Merin, 45, of Bara-ngay Pardo, Cebu City, were a little saddened that it would be the last time they see Vidal as cardinal after almost three decades of serving as the Cebuanos’ spiritual leader.

“It’s only natural I am saddened by his leaving because we’ve gotten so used to Cardinal Vidal,” he said in Cebuano.

Sammy Navaja, the official photographer of the Archdiocese’s newsletter Ang Bag-ong Lungsu-ranon, told Sun.Star Cebu he will miss Vidal, who has been his main subject for the last 16 years.

Navaja recalled that when fire struck his home in Barangay T. Padilla, Cebu City last year, Vidal immediately helped him and his family by providing them with money to rebuild their house.

Navaja, who was with reporters interviewing Vidal during yesterday’s turnover rites, said he owes most of his life as a photographer to the 79-year-old prelate.

Others were almost in tears when they saw Vidal turn over his pastoral staff to Palma.

“Ma-emotional gyud ta kay very dramatic kaayo ang iyang pag-turnover sa archdiocese (The whole ritual was really dramatic),” said a teary-eyed Augusta Lahoylahoy, 20, a nursing student.

Feeling of relief

But for Vidal, he was relieved he can finally retire and turn over his responsibilities to Palma. That way, he can relax.

“While there are feelings of nostalgia, let us remember we shouldn’t dwell on the past or else we will grow old,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Cebuanos weren’t the only ones struggling with mixed emotions with Vidal’s retirement.

Government officials from Leyte were also saddened by the loss of Palma, the well-loved archbishop of Palo.

“Maayo modala og tawo, mga pari. Maayo moatiman sa mga proble-ma (He’s very good with people and the clergy. He’s also a good problem-solver),” former Leyte governor Remedios “Matin” Petilla told reporters.

“But we will also welcome the bishop who will be assigned to Palo. For now, we have Msgr. Bernardo Pantin who is acting administrator,” she said.

Tacloban City Councilor Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez, a former actress, said she made the trip to Cebu because “Msgr. Palma” is close to her family and her husband, Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez.

“We will really miss him. He is a sweet, humble and caring person. He is like a father to us,” she said.

Re-evangelization

In a separate interview, Cebu Council of the Laity president Atty. Pat Aca-bodillo said the lay in the archdiocese should unite to help the new archbishop.

“We should re-evangelize ourselves through the basic catechism of the Catholic Church.

This is the thing we should do with Archbishop Palma, help him re-evangelize the people,” he said.

The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, with a seating capacity of 1,800, was filled to the brim with mostly priests and religious nuns.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 13, 2011.

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