Fr. Anscar Chupungco, O.S.B. the country’s top liturgist, died last Jan. 9, just days before he was to receive the Papal Cross of Honor for service to the Catholic Church. He was 73.

On the Feast of the Black Nazarene, the Benedictine monk succumbed to heart attack at around 5 a.m. in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

Aside from the papal award, which is also known as the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award, Chupungco was also set to receive the Jorge Barlin Golden Cross Award from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The Jorge Barlin Golden Cross is awarded to those who have given exemplary service and dedication to the Catholic Church and is considered one of the highest awards given by the local hierarchy, while the Cross of Honor is the highest award that can be bestowed on the laity by the Pope.

Both awards were posthumously given at the CBCP’s 106th plenary assembly last Jan. 26.

Chupungco is known worldwide for his work on liturgical inculturation, which generated both praise and criticism. He mentored top Filipino liturgists.

His remains were interred at the La Loma Catholic Cemetery last Jan. 17 after the funeral mass presided by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, archbishop emeritus of Manila, at the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat in Manila.

Jose Herminio Javier Chupungco was born on Nov. 10, 1939 in Cainta, Rizal. He took the name “Anscar” when he became a monk of the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat at the age of 19 in 1958. He was ordained priest in 1965.

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Chupungco received two honorary doctorate degrees: Humane Letters from Ateneo de Manila University (1996) and Theology from the Catholic Theological Union of Chicago (1997).

He earned his licentiate in Philosophy and Theology from the University of Santo Tomas, which gave him The Outstanding Thomasian Alumni Award in 2000. Chupungco obtained his doctorate in Sacred Theology specializing in Liturgical Studies at the Ateneo d’ San’t Anselmo in Rome.

In 1973, he became the first Filipino member of the faculty of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome, where he served as a professor and rector.

He also worked as a consultant in the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments of the Vatican, and had lectured to bishops’ conferences and clergy in the United States, Africa, Asia and Europe, before returning to the Philippines to become executive secretary of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Liturgy.

In 1993, Chupungco founded the Paul VI Institute of Liturgy in the Philippines, a center for forming liturgists for Asia. He also founded the Graduate School of Liturgy in San Beda College, Manila where he served as a rector and president from 2001 to 2007.

One of his most recent works was primer on the new English translation of the Roman Missal, released last year.

Chupungco wrote the Handbook for Liturgical Studies, a standard set of textbooks for liturgical education used worldwide.

In 2010, he was conferred the Serviam Award by Rosales. In 2011, the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions of the United States of America awarded Chupungco the McManus Award for his contribution to pastoral liturgy. GRACELYN A. SIMON

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