HE IS CALLED the “Dominican Pope” and has authority over every member of one of the Church’s greatest and most powerful orders, but little known is the fact that the Master of the Order of Preachers also wields tremendous influence over the University of Santo Tomas.

Fr. Carlos Alfonso Azpiroz Costa, O.P. is also Grand Chancellor of the University—an institution considered as one of the Order’s prized possessions—and as such exercises vast powers under the General Statutes of the University.

And so it was that with a sudden blow, he was able to replace the UST leadership, catching everyone, even the three priests he eventually asked to resign — the Filipino Dominican Provincial, the University Rector, and the Vice-Rector — by surprise. The three top UST officials humbly obeyed as part of their religious vows.

UST is a Pontifical University, which means the Pope through the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, has the final say on who gets appointed rector, but it is the Master of the Order based in the Dominican headquarters at Santa Sabina Convent in Rome who makes the recommendation and official appointment. By tradition, his choice is never questioned.

Father Azpiroz arrived in Manila last Aug. 26 and is staying until the last week of September for a canonical visit of the Philippine Province, part of his responsibilities as head of the Dominicans worldwide. He arrived in UST last Sept. 1, and thereafter made decisive actions that will change the University landscape.

Under the UST Statutes, Father Azpiroz serves as ex-officio chancellor of the University, and makes sure that ecclesiastical laws governing the University are faithfully observed and executed.

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Besides having the power to appoint the University rector, he is also responsible for “safeguarding conventional Catholic doctrine,” “promoting upright morals,” “preserving the academic-scientific zeal of the faculty,” and most importantly, “implementing ecclesiastical discipline.”

Father Azpiroz, 50, is the 86th master of the 800-year-old Dominican Order, the second non-European to occupy the post.

A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, he was elected Master by 127 delegates representing around 6,000 Dominican brothers worldwide in the Order’s General Chapter in Providence, Rhode Island, USA in 2001. He serves a nine-year term.

Father Azpiroz has a doctorate in canon law and is an expert on the Dominican Constitution, his thesis being on “The Provincial Chapter in the Book of Constitutions and Ordinations of the Order of Friars Preachers — A Comparative Study with the Constitutions of 1932.” As peritus in the Order’s General Elective Chapter at Providence College, he was elected Master of the Order on July 14, 2001, succeeding Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P.

He has written two letters to members of the Order, with the latest titled “‘Let us walk in joy and think of our Saviour.’ Some views on Dominican itinerancy,” in which he linked religious obedience to the Dominicans’ itinerant way of life.

Obedience, he stressed in the document, is a means to ensure itinerancy and fulfill the Order’s mission to preach the Gospel.

“Religious obedience is not an aim in itself,” he wrote. “It is at the service of the mission of the Order, as defined by the General and Provincial Chapters, and it ensures the freedom the Order needs for its actions (Bologna 33). It is a means through which the friars, as a constituted body, can answer the needs of the common good to be reached together because it was discerned together. Obedience thus is not the expression of the superior’s whim or that of the Chapter, but the personalized expression of the effort demanded from all in view of the mission and the good of the Order in particular circumstances. As by their nature these circumstances change, it is important that the friars also accept change in order to better serve the mission.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. Hi Good day to all!!!! I’m studying the Catholic biblical faith. I joined many communities. God gave me this Gift to preach. I just wanna ask questions if how can be a Dominican member or rather to have the title O.P. or order of preachers?

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