THE FIRST Filipino bishop to be appointed by new Pope Benedict XVI is a Thomasian, Msgr. Jose Rojas Jr., who was named auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Caceres last July. His episcopal ordination will be on Sept. 15.

In a letter to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) last July 25, Archbishop Antonio Franco, papal nuncio to the Philippines, announced the appointment of Rojas.

“Let us assure our newly elected bishop of our humble prayers for his personal and spiritual well-being and also for the successful pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Caceres,” Franco wrote.

Rojas told the Varsitarian that the archdiocese is one of the more peaceful bishoprics in the country. He said he sees his appointment as a titular one as he will continue functioning as Vicar-General of the archdiocese, assisting Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi, O.P. in day-to-day affairs.

Since his appointment to the archdiocese in 1981, Legaspi, the University’s first Filipino rector, has never had an auxiliary. In an interview with the Union of Catholic Asian News, Legaspi said he asked the Vatican for an auxiliary to coordinate the diocese’s ministry. The archdiocese covers the province of Camarines Sur and around 94 per cent of its 1.2 million population are Catholics.

Rojas, a bioethics expert, was ordained in Naga on March 29, 1981. A year later, he went to Manila to finish his master’s degree in Religious Education at the UST Central Seminary. He later flew to Belgium and studied at the Catholic University of Louvain, where he earned his master’s degree in Religious Studies. He finished his doctorate in Moral Theology there in 1987.

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He taught moral theology in the Major Seminary of Naga, where he was rector from 1989 to 1998. He held various positions in the Catholic hierarchy in Caceres, including as judge in the ecclesiastical tribunal and president of the Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith.

Prior to his appointment as auxiliary bishop, Rojas was executive secretary of CBCP’s Office on Bioethics from December 2001 to November 2003. Miko L. Morelos

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