Pope names new Caceres archbishop

By Juan Escandor Jr.
Bicol Mail

Most Rev. Rolando Tria Tirona

NAGA CITY—Letting go of a retired  bishop  who had overstayed for more than a year to lead the more than a million Catholics in this city and the province of Camarines  Sur  beyond retirement, the Pope announced Sunday the appointment of new bishop to head the Archdiocese of Caceres.

Msgr. Leonardo Z. Legaspi, OP, 76, who led the Catholics here for 28 years as the head of Archdiocese of Caceres, announced the appointment of Most Rev. Rolando Tria Tirona, OCD, DD, the 34th Bishop and 4th Archbishop of Caceres by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

The Diocese of Caceres was officially established by Pope Clement VIII on April 27, 1595 with Luis Maldonado, O.F.M., as its first bishop. It was elevated to Archdiocese of Caceres, with two suffragan dioceses, Sorsogon and Legazpi, on June 29, 1951.

Legaspi said Tirona will be coming soon to take over the leadership of the Catholic Church here while he would go back and spend the rest of his life with the Dominican community.

Tirona, 66, was born in Kawit, Cavite on July 22, 1946, finished his elementary and secondary education at the Centro Escolar University in 1952 and 1958, respectively, according to the resume provided by Fr. Louie Occiano of the Caceres Commission on Communications of the Archdiocese of Caceres.

The newly appointed archbishop took his college education at San Beda College and completed political science course from 1962-1965. Immediately after finishing his college course, he entered San Carlos Seminary in Makati to finish Philosophy in 1968.

Tirona cemented further his path to a religious vocation when he entered Mt. Carmel Carmelite Monastery to finish Theology in Haifa, Israel, from 1969-1970. From there, he went to Collegio Internazionale Carmelitani Scalzi (International College of the Discalced Carmelites) for deeper study of Theology in Rome, from 1970-1974.

He was ordained to the priesthood on April 21, 1974 in Rome and as bishop on Dec. 29, 1994 in the Manila Cathedral.

After finishing his Licentiate in Sacred Theology at Institutio di Spiritualita in 1975 in Rome, Tirona assumed various positions with Carmelites including assignments as director and professor of its institutions in Metro Manila and Davao City and became the provincial superior from 1992-1994.

Tirona was installed Bishop of Malolos on January 28, 1997. In June 2003, the late Pope John Paul II appointed him as Bishop-Prelate of Infanta where he has been serving for 9 years now.

Legaspi, the retired archbishop who is spending his last Peñafrancia fiesta as the de facto head of the Archdiocese of Caceres, had been the president of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines for two terms.

He was also the first Filipino rector of the University of Santo Tomas after 360 years under the watch of Spanish rectors since the university’s foundation before he was assigned archbishop here on Jan. 18, 1984.

For almost three decades, Legaspi was able to increase the number of parishes from 39 to 75 and from at least two to an average of eight ordinations per year of the Archdiocese of Caceres.

At present there are 230 priests of which 175 he ordained. Aside from the parishes, 34 religious congregations for women and eight religious congregations for men are located within the area of jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Caceres.

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