MANILA - High-ranking members of the Philippine Catholic hierarchy on Friday led the ordination to the episcopacy of the country's fifth papal envoy.
In a ceremony at the Manila Cathedral, Monsignor Arnaldo Catalan was consecrated as archbishop to prepare for his new role as the Holy See's representative to Rwanda.
Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Vatican's prefect for the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples, was the principal consecrator, while Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula and Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles Brown acted as co-consecrators.
Catalan's ordination saw the rare gathering of four living Filipino cardinals. Aside from Tagle and Advincula, Manila Archbishop Emeritus Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and Cotabato Archbishop Emeritus Orlando Cardinal Quevedo also attended the ceremony.
The president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio also took part in the ceremony along with dozens of other Filipino bishops and priests.
In his homily, Tagle reminded Catalan, who was also made titular archbishop of Apollonia, of the challenges he will face in his new role as apostolic nuncio and advised him to remain steadfast in his faith.
"The mercy of God is always stronger than all the afflictions. And having been encouraged by God's mercy, encourage others who are probably in more miserable conditions," the cardinal said.
Tagle, who is overseeing the Catholic Church's mission territories, took note of the situation in Rwanda, where Catalan will soon transfer.
The Filipino Vatican official highlighted the story of Kigali Archbishop Antoine Kambanda, who lost his entire family except for one sibling, during the 1994 civil war. Nearly 1 million people died, most of them from the Tutsi ethnic group, during the war.
Drawing from the day's gospel which told the story of the wedding in Canaan where Jesus turned water into wine, Tagle likened the wine to the needs of other people.
"I'm sure we all see where wine is lacking. But Jesus's question is on another level: 'does this concern us?' And we should be humble enough to admit why we do not move from seeing that there is no more wine to being more concerned," the cardinal said.
"Because we have wine, we're not too concerned about those who do not have wine... Because we still have our family, are we concerned about those who lost their families in senseless killings?"
As prayers were being chanted, Catalan lay prostrate at the center of the cathedral, where only a few attendees were allowed to maintain physical distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
To complete the ordination rituals, he received the traditional insignia of a bishop: the episcopal ring, crosier, zucchetto, and miter.
Meanwhile, in his message, Advincula called Catalan as the gift of the Philippines to the Universal Church.
"Wherever you are sent, bring with you the Filipino faith, the Filipino warmth, the Filipino hospitality, the Filipino personalism, the Filipino joy, and the Filipino smile," the archbishop said.
The 55-year-old Catalan, who was serving as the charge d'affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in China prior to his appointment, admitted that he was surprised when he was nominated as the new apostolic nuncio to Rwanda.
He said he was looking forward to his vacation when he was informed of his nomination.
"Like all surprises, this nomination is a gift that is totally gratuitous and unmerited, but it is also quite a demanding task. Truly, God did not meet my expectations; he exceeded them. So much that I am at the loss of words to thank Him," Catalan said.
"So I take Saint Paul's appreciation of his ministry, as a motto and as a pledge of gratitude. That since I have this ministry, only through the mercy shown me I am not discouraged."
Catalan also thanked another Filipino cardinal, the late Manila Archbishop Emeritus Jaime Cardinal Sin, who accepted him to the seminary, ordained him as a priest, and pushed him to enter the diplomatic service.
Prior to his appointment as papal envoy to Rwanda, Catalan also served in the Apostolic Nunciatures in Zambia, India, Kuwait, Turkey, Argentina, Canada, and the Philippines.
He was ordained to the priesthood in 1994 and was incardinated to the Archdiocese of Manila.
During Pope Francis's visit to Rwanda in 2017, he apologized for the failures of the Catholic Church during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
In the 2020 consistory for the creation of new cardinals, the pope gave Rwanda its first cardinal through Archbishop Kambanda. It was in the same consistory that Advincula was also created as cardinal.
Aside from acting as the pope's ambassador, the apostolic nuncio also plays a huge role in the appointment of bishops in the country where he is serving.
The apostolic nuncio is part of the long process of the selection of the new bishops and archbishops along with the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops before it is ultimately decided by the pope.