Care for the poor and environmental protection will play important roles in Bishop Joel Baylon's ministry as bishop of Legazpi. [Here we go again.]
In his diocese, farmers are "deprived of the land they can call their own because of mining activities encroaching on their properties" and fisher folk are "deprived by big companies," said the 55-year-old bishop during his installation Mass.
"We as a Church should dare to speak in the name of truth and defend those who are being oppressed and taken advantage of," he said during the Dec. 10 ceremony at Legazpi's Cathedral of Saint Gregory the Great.
Agriculture and fishing are the main livelihoods of many people in the Bicol region's Albay province where his diocese is located.
When Pope Benedict XVI appointed him bishop of Legazpi last October, he was serving as bishop of Masbate, the region's poorest province according to a 2006 census.
Under his lead, the Masbate Church protested against the danger brought by open-pit mining operations, primarily for gold, in the town of Aroroy. Church opposition intensified earlier this year after the deaths of two children fueled suspicion that chemicals and other toxic waste were seeping into drinking water sources and the sea.
Bishop Baylon told UCA News at his installation that Legazpi diocese will continue to oppose mining on Rapu-Rapu Island if it harms the environment and endangers lives.
He said the Church, with help from Jesuit-owned Ateneo de Naga and various NGOs, has obtained data and "scientific proof that mining is harming the fragile flora and fauna in the region."
He stressed the Church is an "advocate" with no policing power. "We can't force those companies to leave the island." Instead, "We will continue to encourage dialogue with all involved -- farmers, miners and local and regional governments who have the power to enforce decisions," the bishop said.
Bishop Baylon said he will also involve youths in forest protection. The bishop heads the Episcopal Commission on Youth.
The bishop is a native of Camarines Sur province, also in the Bicol region. He was ordained a priest in 1978 and was made bishop after a 20-year ministry that included serving as secretary at the apostolic nunciature in Manila.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was among more than 3,000 people who attended his recent installation Mass.
Thirty-six priests serve more than 1.13 million Catholics in 43 parishes in Legazpi, aided by 156 nuns, 12 brothers and 86 seminarians.
Is this in the job description of a bishop?
Maybe he forgot his primary role as a bishop and spends more time on "other matters".
Don't get me wrong. What he advocates is important but from the way he sounded, it looks like he'll devote 90% of his time and energy towards environmental protection and the measely 10% to actual governance.
I am no bishop and I can't tell what he must do. But I am a Roman Catholic Christian and I know what my catechism tells me about what a bishop ought to be.
Still my question begs to be answered...
Do you need episcopal consecration to pursue environmental protection?
What happened to these descriptions of a bishop?
- Successor to the Apostles:
- Visible Source and Foundation of Unity of the Local Church:
- Herald of the Faith
- Steward of Grace
- Shepherd of Souls
WHAAT?!?! No champion of the environment?!