THOMASIAN bishop-elect Julius Sullan Tonel of Ipil prelature, where the Italian priest Fr Giancarlo Bossi was kidnapped last June and freed 39 days later, sees his appointment as a “blessing” and a “challenge.”

Last June 30, Pope Benedict XVI appointed the 50-year-old Tonel to head the prelature based in Ipil, the capital of Zamboanga Sibugay province.

“To serve the Church as bishop of Ipil is a blessing and at the same time a challenge because the things that took place there is something new to me,” Tonel told the Varsitarian, referring to the abduction of Bossi.

Bossi, a priest with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, was kidnapped by armed men last June 10 on his way to say Mass in Payao town. He was freed last July.

Tonel plans to start his new role as Ipil bishop by “listening” to the people in the prelature through a dialogue.

“Initially, they would have to teach me more than I would have to teach them,” he said.

Born in Davao City, Tonel studied Philosophy at Saint Francis Xavier Minor Seminary in Davao before taking up Theology in UST. He was ordained priest in 1980 at the age of 23. He later earned his licentiate in Liturgical Theology at St. Anselmo Pontifical Institute of Liturgy in Rome.

After serving as director of the Archdiocesan Family Apostolate in Davao, Tonel was appointed rector of St. Francis Xavier Archdiocesan Seminary and president of the Commission for Basic Ecclesial Communities. He also served as rector of the regional major seminary. Tonel served as parish priest of San Pablo in Matina, Davao until 2002 before becoming the province’s vicar-general, the highest official after the archbishop.

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The first non-Jesuit Ipil prelate, Tonel succeeded Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, who was installed in the Cagayan de Oro archdiocese in May 2006.

Tonel will be ordained bishop on August 20 at San Pedro Cathedral in Davao City. S.K. Digal

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