The first Filipino priest who was appointed as a new bishop of a diocese in Japan has assumed his new responsibility on March 19.
Pope Francis appointed Father Edgar Cuntapay Gacutan, as bishop of the Diocese of Sendai on December 8, 2021, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
He is the first Filipino to be a bishop in Japan. He is a member of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, commonly known as CICM missionaries.
Bishop Gacutan remembered the origins of his vocation in the congregation that provided him with the "seeds of the mission" in his thanksgiving speech.
Although the seed was sown in the Philippines, the tree produced fruit in Japan, he explained.
He further claimed that, although being born in the Philippines, he felt "at home" in Japan, the country where the first Filipino saint Lorenzo Ruiz was murdered.
By welcoming the first Filipino bishop on Japanese territory, Bishop Gacutan stated Ruiz’s death on that soil bore fruit.
“I have already visited Japan. And I pray that our Sendai diocese will be a welcoming place for all,” the 57-year-old prelate said.
According to him, “Amid disasters, we, the Church, united in Christ, must walk as Christ walked alongside the Church.”
"May we become one heart and soul, so that the church may blossom one day," the newly chosen bishop picked as his episcopal motto.
Bishop Gacutan was born in the province of Cagayan in 1964. From 1981 to 1985, he studied philosophy at St. Louis University in Baguio City. He studied theology from 1986 to 1989 at the Maryhill School of Theology in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
He was relocated to Japan in February 1990 as a seminary student.
After three years in Japan, he returned to Manila to complete his theological studies at the same school.
Gacutan was ordained a priest in 1994 for the Congregatio Immaculate Cordis Mariae, or Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
He returned to Japan a month after his ordination. He served as an assistant pastor in Kongo Church, Osaka, from 1994 to 1997, before joining the team ministry in Osaka for six years until 2003.
He was appointed head of the Japanese CICM province in 2004. He held the position till 2012.
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