BUTUAN CITY - The head of the Diocese of Butuan and Agusan for more than 21 years died at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center on Saturday evening.
Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos passed away quietly at around 6:20 in the evening. He was 74.
The clergies have been mum about the details of the bishop’s health and treatment weeks before his death. Not even the diocese spokesperson Rev. Fr. Michael Abellanosa made public about the church leader’s condition.
Butuan City and the provinces of Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur where Bishop Pueblos led for more than two decade is home to more than a million Catholics.
‘Priesthood in 5 decades’
Juan de Dios Pueblos was born on March 8, 1943 in Loon town in Bohol.
Pueblos studied Philosophy at the Sacred Heart Academy in 1953. He later studied at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary and finished Theology in 1970.
His post-graduate studies at San Carlos Major Seminary in Cebu and at Divine Word College in Tagbilaran eventually placed him in a leadership role in Catholic Church.
But his climb towards being the top leader in the diocese of Butuan took him three decades of dedication in service of the church and its people.
He was ordained a priest on March 28, 1968. His humble beginnings can be traced back as an assistant parish priest from 1968 until 1970 in Tagbilaran, Dipolog and Carmen in Bohol.
During this time, he also served as professor at Divine Word College in Tagbilaran City. He later became principal in a church-run school before he became a parish priest at Auxilium Christianorum Parish in 1971.
Pueblos then served as spiritual director for the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary. He turned parish priest of the church and served from 1973 until 1978.
Before being appointed as titular bishop of Zaba in 1985, Pueblos worked his way up as rector, a parish priest and a school director.
He was a school chaplain at Assumption College in Makati in 1984 before his appointment as bishop in the succeeding year.
On April 29, 1985, Pope John Paul II appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Davao. His episcopal ordination was on June 24, 1985.
He was appointed Bishop of Kidapawan in 1987 before the Pope appointed him bishop of Butuan on November 24, 1995.
Pueblos, or "Didi" as he is fondly called by those close to him, was installed on January 17, 1996.
‘Weak and ailing’
The ABS-CBN News team had the chance to talk to Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Butuan Zacarias Jimenez Sunday afternoon.
According to Jimenez, they suspected Pueblos had liver cirrhosis but refused to be treated in a hospital.
“We suspect he is suffering from liver cirrhosis but we never thought it was leukemia [Ang among duda liver cirrhosis wala mi nagdahum nga naa siya’y leukemia]," Jimenez said in the vernacular.
Recently, the top church leader in Butuan was brought into Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan for diagnosis and treatment.
“Serious stage na. Off and on, ang response niya pero hindi na niya kinaya [Serious na nga stage. Off and on, magresponse siya pero dili na makaya niya]," Jimenez said.
Jimenez also confirmed that Pueblos had been under treatment in a hospital for at least two weeks.
Though he was weak and he lost his hearing, Pueblos, according to Jimenez, showed spirit and drew strength after being diagnosed with leukemia.
The post of the late Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos is now vacant.
A "board of consulters" composed of eight church leaders will convene on Wednesday to elect someone from the clergy of the diocese to temporarily assume the role left behind by the bishop.
This will happen in Bohol as all parish priests from the diocese are currently on retreat in the island province, Jimenez said.
The Catholic Church, through Jimenez, requests everyone to pray for Pueblos.
Pueblos is the second bishop who served Butuan and Agusan since the diocese was established in 1967.