PALO, Leyte -- The Roman Catholic Church ordained on January 9 a new bishop of the Diocese of Naval in Biliran with a mission to comfort poor families devastated by a powerful storm last month.

Bishop Rex Ramirez replaced Bishop Filemeno Bactol, 75, who retired from church service after 28 years of leading the Diocese of Naval.

The Church announced his appointment as the new bishop on October 13, 2017. The diocese covers the eight towns of Biliran and some parts of northern Leyte such as Calubian, San Isidro, Tabango, and Leyte towns.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle presided the three-hour ordination at the Palo Metropolitan Cathedral that was witnessed by the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, Palo Archbishop John Du, and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

The Cathedral in Palo was packed with hundreds of people, including bishops and archbishops who traveled from across the country to take part in the ceremony.

In his message, the Papal Nuncio told Ramirez not to be afraid of his new mission, even though he will start his episcopacy in the diocese hit by storm Urduja.

“Don’t be afraid for as long as you build your life in the rock of faith, on Jesus, no wind, no storm, no typhoon can take you out and destroy you,” Caccia said.

The Papal Nuncio also reminded Ramirez not to allow any types of division in his episcopacy.

“Always build union in communion. Never allow any kind of division. We have to build the body of Christ which is the Church that has to be united,” he added.

Tagle, for his part, , likened the ordination of Ramirez into Traslacion (Feast of the Black Nazarene), as he will be transferred to another diocese and starts his new job as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

“In the translation of life, please be there in the traslaciones of people from birth, to infancy, to adolescence, to crisis, to marriage and even to ordination, Jesus is there and you will remind them,” Tagle said.

On Friday, January 12, Ramirez will leave for Naval with Archbishop Du for his installation as the new leader of the diocese.

Ramirez said that after the installation, his first activity will be the distribution of relief goods to residents of the province affected by landslide and flooding due to Tropical Storm Urduja.

Ramirez was born in Balangiga, Easter Samar, on December 15, 1967. He had been the second-in-command of the Archdiocese of Palo, which covers Eastern Visayas.

The Church ordained Ramirez as priest on March 27, 1995 at the Archdiocese of Palo, where he served as special secretary to the Archbishop for two years.

Ramirez then went to study at the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome where he obtained a Licentiate in Liturgy. During his 10 years stay there, he became a chaplain of the Filipino Community in the parish of San Leone Magno in Rome, Suore Missionarie del Sacro Costato and to the Filipino community of La Storta in the diocese of Porto-Santa Rufina.

He also became the spiritual director of the Saint John the Evangelist School of Theology in Palo and later on became rector of Sacred Heart Seminary before his appointment as administrator of the Metropolitan Palo Cathedral. (PNA)