By Bobby Q. Labalan
SORSOGON CITY --- Manila Archbishop Antonio Tagle will join some five hundred Bicol priests and church officials during the 3rd Bicol Priest Congress to be held here at end of the month.
Bishop Arturo Bastes said Tagle, together with the Papal Nuncio, Italian Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, will be the special guests during the four-day congress to be held July 30 to August 2 at the Our Lady of Penafrancia in Barangay Bibincahan, this city.
According to the bishop, the assembly primarily aims to promote solidarity, strengthen sacramental brotherhood and promote fraternal charity among priests. But one of the most significant objectives is the formation of the Bicol Pastoral Conference (BPC) which will include not only the bishops and priests but lay people as well.
Bastes said the BPC will be patterned after the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference which actively participates in the implementation of the programs of the Catholic church. “We want to further strengthen the bond among and between priests and the lay people”.
The four-day event will feature a keynote speech from Archbishop Tagle on July 31 while the Papal Nuncio will celebrate a mass on August 2 during the closing ceremonies.
Bastes said the congress is unique to Bicol, the first of which was held some 20 years ago in Naga City while the second was held sometime in 2007 at the Betlehem Diocesan Pastoral Formation in Bacacay, Albay.
“Bicol priests have a beautiful tradition of being together because of our devotion to Our Lady of Penafrancia. That’s why every September, during the feast of the Our Lady of Penafrancia, there is a union of all Bicol clergies. We are all together, we celebrate mass together,” the bishop related.
He added that the special bond among Bicol priests was due to the fact that during the olden times, there was only one seminary in the region, the Holy Rosary Major Seminary in Naga City where all Bicol priests studied.
But now that seminaries have sprouted in almost all dioceses, and some priests even studied abroad, there is a need to strengthen sacramental brotherhood among Bicolano priests, the prelate stressed.
Bastes said this is the reason why even Bicolano priests assigned outside the region are invited to attend the congress so they can renew their bond with their fellow priests.
At present, the House for the Clergy (HFTC) located at the seminary, which serves as the residence of the bishop, is undergoing refurbishment as part of the diocese’s preparations for the big event.