Lord, I never wanted to be separated from You.

Jose Cardinal Sanchez is Home

I’d been trying to find time in my four-year stay in Rome to have an encounter with his eminence, Jose Cardinal Sanchez. Rome became his home for 25 years. But we never met in Rome because on December 2010, he decided to go home to the Philippines to boost the campaign against the Reproductive Health bill. He could not just sit back while watching his fellow bishops fight the passage of the measure.

I’m 91 years old already but I said I want to go home to the Philippines and somehow use my voice in the pastoral life of the church," he said in a statement posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website.

He said that the bill, which requires the government to make a comprehensive range of contraceptives more widely available to the public, is the beginning of the “destruction of Christian family." Furthermore, he firmly believed that once it is formally legislated, it would be the head start of more “immoral and anti-Christian laws."

He added: “I only pray that the Filipinos become more aware of this… We have our tradition and that is protecting our family from the beginning."

The cardinal was born and raised in Pandan, Catanduanes. He was the fifth of six Filipino cardinals of the Philippines from the time of Pope John XXIII. There are only two living cardinals left: Manila Archbishop Emeritus Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal. The three other Filipino cardinals, now deceased, were Rufino Cardinal Santos (1908-1973), Julio Cardinal Rosales (1906-1983), and Jaime Cardinal Sin (1928-2005).

He attended the seminary of the Holy Rosary in Naga City and obtained a doctorate in theology at the UST of Manila. He was ordained a priest on May 12, 1946.

As a priest, he carried out an intense pastoral activity in Sorsogon and Legazpi, dioceses in which for a period, was vicar general. He also taught at the minor seminary of Sorsogon, Academy of St. Agnes, superior school of Albay and at the Aquinas University in Legazpi city. He also taught at the major seminary of the Holy Rosary in Naga City.

On February 5, 1968, he was elected titular Bishop of Lesvi and Auxiliary of Caceres. He received episcopal ordination on May 12, 1968. On December 12, 1972 he was named Coadjutor of the Bishop of Lucena whom he succeeded on September 25, 1976.

From 1970, he was a member of the Administrative Council of the Conference of Bishops of the Philippines; from 1976, President of the Committee for the Apostolate of the Laity; from 1976 to 1980, co-president of a Church-military commission; and from 1981 to 1985, member of the permanent commission of the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences. In 1974, he was a delegate of the Philippines at the III Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to evangelization

On January 12, 1982 he became Archbishop of Nueva Segovia and resigned on March 22, 1986. From October 30, 1985 until 1991, he was Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

As Secretary of the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples, in the Encyclical Redemptoris missio he offered a comment especially in reference to the specific aspects inherent to the activity of his dicastery.

July 1991 he was named prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy (until June 1996).

1991-1993, President of Commission for Preservation of Artistic and Historic Patrimony of the Church.

He was made a cardinal in 1991, and became Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy a month later. He retired from this position on June 15, 1996.

On December 2011, I was invited by the Dominican Daughters of the Immaculate Mother at the Immaculate Mother School in Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City to celebrate a novena mass in honor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. I had no idea that the Cardinal was with them. During the mass, I noticed an old mestizo man in long sleeves joined the faithful. I did not recognize him right away but looking at him made me think that he must probably be a man of dignity. The Dominican sisters, who were also taking care of him, introduced him to me. I was in cloud nine to have finally met him. He was evidently weak but his posture was not crooked. He spoke softly yet firm with substance. His angelic face was very clear despite his age. His mind was even clearer. We dined at the same table while talking in straight English. We had a good dinner but most importantly, we had a good conversation not only about personal matters but also regarding the unfolding events in the church.

He told me that he cried for days upon knowing about the move to pass the RH Bill which will cause the imminent destruction of the Filipino Christian Family. Furthermore, his heart cried for clerics who were engaged in the sexual abuse controversy of the Church. He asked me to unceasingly pray for the Church who is on battle. That was my first and last encounter with the good cardinal.

Jose Cardinal Sanchez, a prince of the Church, passed away at 4:30 a.m. Friday, March 9, 2012. He was 91. He would have turned 92 on March 17. Pray for us in heaven, your true home.


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God bless you!

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