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Filipino bishop warns clergy against arrogance and being hired men rather than caring Fathers

Chrism Mass and Renewal of Priestly Vows on March 21 (Wednesday) at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. (Photo: Fr. Abel Villarojo's Facebook Page)

The Philippines' Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Midyphil Billones expressed concern over an advertisement that read "Kristo for Hire" and warned that bishops and priests can fall into the trap of “seeing their presbyteral ministry as simple as being men hired.”

Bishop Billones echoed this message in his homily during the Chrism Mass and Renewal of Priestly Vows on March 21 at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, in which he resonates with what Pope Francis has been telling the clergy every so often, that is, to guard against careerism, “where priests tend to act more as office administrators rather than caring fathers, and the danger of clericalism where privilege is emphasized rather than genuine service.”

The Cebu Archdiocese is the biggest in the Philippines, with a population of more than 5.2 million, 87.5% of which are Catholics. Approximately 600 diocesan and religious priests serve the archdiocese. Statistics on the Archdiocesan website say the ratio is 1 priest to 7,497 Catholics.  

The bishop said that the theology of the priesthood shares Christ’s mission, which is “to enact and implement the messianic plan by proclamation, liberation, healing, and letting people know that God is gracious and merciful.”

“We are ordained for mission, not for position. Our lives are extensions of this mission of Christ; every facet of our life and ministry should mirror this and nothing more.”

He cautioned against self-referential competition among the clergy, which, he said, “could morph into a self-preferential ministry if not grounded in Christological priestly consciousness.”

Another element in the mission of the priesthood, according to Bishop Billones, is the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  He urged the local clergy “to call on the Lord for guidance as they renew their priestly vows.”

“As we stir the chrism oil, breathe and invoke the Holy Spirit, we stir alive the gifts within us and allow the spirit to breathe renewal within our ministry.”

“The most beautiful moment in ordination is the laying on of hands, where, in silence, the spirit is invoked to anoint us. The ceremony only performs this once, yet the actualizing moment lasts a lifetime. It is imperative to ask: do I consider myself a man anointed by the Spirit? The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. Do I open myself as a vessel of the Holy Spirit to be guided to serve the people?”

The bishop called out priests who abhor renewal programs and who preach passionately about conversion but are “allergic” when the same is being demanded of them.

He stressed that among priests, there’s a tendency to think after ordination that they have become perfect.

“As chosen, indeed, you are God’s masterpiece but a masterpiece that He continues to hone in the spirit. When we get stuck with this thought, then arrogance creeps in.”

Once ordained, “we think we know everything and have all the answers and so we speak a lot and listen less.”

Bishop Billones stressed that a synodal church, one that listens and dialogues, begins with the clergy.- Malou Guanzon-Apalisok


Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.”  Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.