After months of eager anticipation, the faithful in the Archdiocese of Manila learned from the Vatican the appointment last March 25 of Cardinal Jose Fuerte Advincula, Jr. as their new Archbishop. It coincided with the celebration of the Annunciation, when it was announced to Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus Christ.
Advincula is one of only four Cardinals in the Philippine Catholic Church today. Cardinals Gaudencio Rosales and Orlando Quevedo are retired while Luis Antonio Tagle is presently serving as one of only 11 cardinal-bishops in the highest councils of Vatican governance. It is clear that Pope Francis chose Advincula, currently the highest-ranking Catholic prelate in the country, to lead the Archdiocese of Manila in recognition of its strategic importance.
The Archdiocese of Manila covers the cities of Manila, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Makati and Pasay. As a metropolitan archdiocese, it also includes nine suffragan dioceses – Antipolo, Cubao, Imus, Caloocan, Malolos, Novaliches, Parañaque, Pasig and San Pablo – and together they constitute an ecclesiastical province that covers the entire National Capitol Region and the provinces of Rizal, Bulacan and Laguna and Cavite.
Some scholars note that the seeds of the eventual end of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines were sown in the erstwhile diocese of Manila that was established in 1579. A movement to establish an autonomous diocesan clergy to end the near-monopoly of Church positions by the Spanish friars belonging to the religious orders led to the execution by guillotine of three Filipino priests – Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora – collectively known as Gomburza, in 1872.
Their heroic death inspired Jose Rizal to organize La Liga Filipina that advocated reforms including the recognition by Spain of the Filipino clergy. Rizal’s martyrdom in 1896 underlined the futility of the peaceful advocacy for reforms, sparked the formation of the Katipunan, and the eventual toppling of Spanish colonial rule in 1898.
While the territory of the metropolitan Archdiocese of Manila covers only the cities of Manila, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Makati and Pasay, it also includes nine suffragan dioceses: Antipolo, Cubao, Imus, Caloocan, Malolos, Novaliches, Parañaque, Pasig and San Pablo. The metropolitan archdiocese and the suffragan dioceses constitute an ecclesiastical province.
Being from Panay island as a native of Dumalag, Capiz and the erstwhile Archbishop of Capiz, Advincula’s appointment evokes comparison with that of Sin, who hailed from New Washington, Aklan and was Archbishop of Jaro (Iloilo).
Serviam (I will listen) was Cardinal Sin’s motto; for Cardinal Advincula, its Audiam (I will listen). Unlike Sin who was appointed at age 45 and went on to serve for 29 years until his retirement in 2003, Advincula’s appointment was announced five days before his 68th birthday.
His mild manners may be gleaned from his Christmas 2020 message aired by Radio Veritas. He echoed the Archangel Gabriel’s call to Mary during the Annunciation: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found grace with God.” In light of the anxiety and vulnerability brought on by the pandemic, he said that the Christian message of hope and joy is animated by God’s presence in the midst of humanity’s daily struggles: “Do not be afraid of Covid-19. God is with us.”