A key concern on the division of the Archdiocese of Cebu that was shared by several priests and lay people I’ve interviewed these past few weeks is the timeline.
Sugbuswak was announced last New Year’s Eve, with the official proposal targeted to be sent to the Vatican after the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines meeting in January 2024. That’s about a year.
Is that enough time?
Deeper studies and wider consultations are needed, several of the priests told me. Don’t rush the process and don’t approach it as a legacy for Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, said Fr. Euselito Tulipas in an interview. Palma will turn 75 in 2025 and will have to hand in his resignation letter to Pope Francis.
The archbishop, however, has never mentioned this as his legacy. What he was quoted as saying is that it is the legacy of Cebu’s central role in the 500 years of Christianity. It is some of the people around him who want to present it as such, a source said.
Palma is already scheduled to go to the different ecclesiastical districts to consult with priests and church people. That should satisfy the clamor for wider consultation, at least with the clergy.
Lay people, as one priest told me, don’t matter in this discussion. It is a question for the clergy, he said. It is a management issue, a lay person added in a separate interview.
There are just three months or so to the stated target of submitting the proposal to the Vatican, can a meaningful consultation be done with priests and church people in such a short time? Or will there just be presentations of a plan that is already fully formed and with no more room for substantial changes?
And will there ever be a press conference open to those who write about church affairs?