New Manila prelate vows to be a ‘listening shepherd’ to his flock

Cardinal Advincula expressed his "commitment to renew my heart’s desire to be a listening shepherd to the flock entrusted to my care”

Cardinal Jose Advincula, the new archbishop of the Archdiocese of Manila, vowed to be “a listening shepherd” as he starts this week to lead his new flock in the face of pastoral challenges.

The cardinal was installed on Thursday, June 24, as archbishop of the oldest diocese in the Philippines, covering five cities and four dioceses in surrounding provinces.

The 69-year-old archbishop is now pastor of at least three million Catholics in 86 parishes with over 600 priests and religious men and women.

In his homily during his installation at the Manila Cathedral the prelate noted the impact of the pandemic on the Church.

“This scourge has crippled us in many ways; but it has enabled us, too, in more creative ways and has made us see clearly the things that we value most in our lives,” he said.

Only up to 400 people were allowed to attend the ceremonies due to health restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

The archbishop then continued to comment how some people might actually thought “that God has abandoned us.”

“But instead, for us, steadfast believers, it simply shows forth God’s power in the midst of our helplessness; for we see God as our only help in our helplessness,” said the cardinal.

He said the pandemic, and even his installation as the new archbishop of Manila, could have been part of “God’s mysterious design” and an “event of great historic significance” for the local Church.

“However, let us not get stuck in the great historic significance,” he said. “It behooves us to ask ourselves: Where are we Filipinos as a Christian people after 500 years of Christianity?”

Cardinal Jose Advincula presents the Scriptures during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist for his installation as archbishop of Manila on June 24, 2021. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

“As Filipinos, we also ask ourselves: What has happened to Manila after 450 years since she became a city?” said the cardinal.

“This is an event that should also help us reflect how significant Manila is in the formation of our values as a Filipino nation towards true communion and authentic progress,” he added.

He said “the pastoral challenge far outweighs the significance of all these historic events converging today.”

“All of us, Filipinos, are called to take up such a challenge, in our respective ministry or area of responsibility, most especially for us leaders of our nation – both in the Church and in the civil government,” said Cardinal Advincula.

“I have nothing new to tell you today,” said the cardinal, “except my commitment to renew my heart’s desire to be a listening shepherd to the flock entrusted to my care.”

He then asked for the support of the clergy, consecrated persons, and the faithful of the archdiocese.

“Let me be a listening shepherd to you all, and let us learn from one another how to listen after the heart of Christ our Good Shepherd,” he said.

Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila delivers his homily during his installation as the new prelate of the archdiocese on June 24, 2021. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

He also appealed for prayers “that I may have a heart after that of Christ our Good Shepherd — a listening shepherd to Christ’s bidding — ever ready to suffer for and serve Christ’s sheep.”

“I am deeply aware how I fall short of people’s expectations of me, how unworthy and inadequate I am in many ways,” he said.

“I pray that Christ grant me the grace to be a listening shepherd to His flock so that I can journey with you and lead you all back to Christ our Good Shepherd,” he said.

The cardinal turned emotional as he thanked the priests, consecrated persons and the laity of the Archdiocese of Capiz where he served for the past nine years.

“Thank you so much for teaching me to be a shepherd who listens,” he said.

“For 20 years of being your bishop, I tried to be a listening shepherd to you; yet, as you know well, there are still a lot that I should learn,” he said.

More than 30 bishops and about 200 priests from all over the archdiocese, some from the Diocese of Capiz in the central Philippines, took part in the celebration of the installation of the archbishop.

The ceremony coincided with the celebration of the 450th founding anniversary of the city of Manila.

Members of the clergy of Manila attend the installation of Cardinal Jose Advincula as the new archbishops of the Archdiocese of Manila on June 24, 2021. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

Cardinal Advincula admitted he never expected to be a cardinal or to lead the Archdiocese of Manila.

“When Pope Francis named me a cardinal and eventually appointed me as archbishop of Manila, I must confess I was simply overwhelmed by such honor and responsibility,” he said.

“I have had many restless days and sleepless nights as I confronted my doubts and fears,” he added.

He said his episcopal motto “Audiam (I will listen)” has guided him through his episcopate.

“Like Moses and the prophet Jeremiah, I am not a good speaker. Despite their shortcomings, however, God had empowered them to speak on His behalf and show forth His saving power,” said the cardinal.

He earlier admitted that he could not be as vocal on issues as his late mentor, the Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila who was Cardinal Advincula’s teacher in the seminary.

Cardinal Sin was one of the key figures during the 1986 “People Power” revolution that ended the almost-two-decade rule of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

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