THOMASIAN clergymen will head the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) come December 1.

Tandag bishop Nereo Odchimar has been elected CBCP president for a two-year term, while Palo Archbishop Jose Palma will take his place as vice-president.

Odchimar, a former Faculty of Canon Law professor, will replace Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo. He got 86 votes from 88 national dioceses during the CBCP’s 99th Plenary Assembly at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Paco, Manila last July 11.

Known for his strong stand against mining and illegal logging, Odchimar is the first bishop to be elected CBCP president. Before him, only archbishops have occupied the post. The 68-year-old prelate is also among a number of bishops who have called for the delay of charter change until after the 2010 presidential elections.

Palma, 58, served as rector of two seminaries in a span of 10 years – St. Vincent Ferrer Seminary from 1987 to 1988, and St. Joseph Regional Seminary from 1988 to 1997. He was ordained bishop in 1998, and was appointed archbishop in 2006.

Odchimar obtained his bachelor and doctorate degrees in Canon Law in 1982 and 1983, respectively; while Palma earned his licentiate degree in Sacred Theology in 1976, and doctorate in Theology in 1987. Both graduated magna cum laude from UST twice.

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