AT 79, Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal remains ready to serve his flock, his sense of humor still sharp despite his frail health.

Celebrating his birthday yesterday with friends, priests and parishioners, the archbishop made frequent comments on his age.

“At 79 going 80, I know and I can feel it, that I am not young anymore and not strong either,” he said during a thanksgiving mass in the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral at 11 a.m.

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“As you can see, I am bowed. Sa Binisaya pa, ‘Bawog na gayod ang akong barog’,” he joked.

But with his retirement still pending four years after he notified the Vatican, Cardinal Vidal assured service remains a way of life for him.

“I assure you, I am not beaten, kay maka-tingog pa ako bisan dili na lanog (because I still have my voice, though it may not be as loud as it used to be),” said Vidal.

The archbishop’s birthday began with the “mañanita” serenade at 4:30 a.m. in his residence along D. Jakosalem St. He celebrated mass for his well-wishers at 5 a.m., followed by breakfast.

At 11 a.m., he celebrated a thanksgiving mass at the Cathedral.

“To you all, I say thank you very much for remembering me on my birthday. Thank you very much for reminding me that I am old already,” said Cardinal Vidal.

In an interview yesterday, the archbishop explained that although he already passed the mandatory retirement age of 75, he cannot be released from his obligations until a replacement is found.

“At 75, priests and bishops are mandated to retire based on the laws of the church. But the Holy Father (Pope Benedict XVI) has asked me to stay until a successor replaces me,” said Vidal.

Retirement

He heard rumors spreading among bishops during his visit to Manila two weeks ago that his retirement was already approved by the Pope.

“Mabuti pa sila alam nila (Good for them, they know more than I do),” he joked again.

He requested a clarification and was told by the Apostolic Nuncio to “be patient.”

Once his retirement is approved, Cardinal Vidal said he hopes to stay in Cebu, if he is accepted as a Cebuano. He has a retirement house ready in Barangay Talamban.

“Will you still accept me here in Cebu?” he asked.

Ricardo Jamin Vidal was born on Feb. 6, 1931 in Mogpog, Marinduque to Fructuoso Vidal and Natividad Jamin.

He took his theology studies at the San Carlos Seminary in Makati City and was ordained as deacon in September 1955.

He became a priest a year later and was ordained bishop on Nov. 30, 1971 by then Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Carmine Rocco.

Vidal became archbishop of Cebu on Sept. 18, 1982, but before that he also served as co-adjutor bishop of Malolos, then as archbishop of Lipa. (JKV)