Faith and Spirituality

CBCP head Bishop David elected to crucial body at Vatican summit

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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CBCP head Bishop David elected to crucial body at Vatican summit

CBCP HEAD. Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David is president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

This raises the international profile of Bishop Pablo Virgilio 'Ambo' David, 64, a leading biblical scholar trained in Louvain, Belgium, and a prominent critic of Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs

MANILA, Philippines – Asian delegates at a landmark Vatican summit chose the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio “Ambo” David, as one of seven elected members of their information body.

David, 64, is the Asian representative to the Commission for Information of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. 

Other commission members represent six other regions – Eastern Catholic and Middle Eastern Churches, Africa, North America, Central and South America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. The synod rules allow assembly members from each area to “elect only their respective representatives.”

When asked about his new task, David sent Rappler a portion of the regulations for this synod of bishops. The excerpt states that the Commission on Information is expected to:

  • collaborate with the Vatican’s communication arm and the synod secretariat
  • report on the synod’s progress
  • prepare statements on specific topics as needed

According to the synod’s Facebook page, the commission “will oversee the communications work of the Synod Assembly.”

The election took place on Monday, October 9, and was reported by CBCP News on Thursday, October 12. 

What is a synod?

A synod is a religious assembly whose name comes from the Greek root words syn (“together”) and hodos (“journey” or “way”).

In this particular synod, delegates are discussing “synodality,” a way of being a church that “journeys together” and listens more to the poor and the marginalized, including migrants, refugees, and the LGBTQ+ community.

This synod on synodality, a three-year process from 2021 to 2024 that involved consultations on the parish and diocese levels, is considered a hallmark of Francis’ pontificate. The selection of delegates itself is groundbreaking, as the Pope opened it to women – including a Filipina, 59-year-old theologian Estela Padilla – for the first time.

The XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is being conducted in two phases – first in October 2023 then in October 2024. The first phase is running from October 4 to 29, 2023.

Who is Bishop David?

David’s new role in the synod further raises his international profile.

A priest for 40 years and a bishop for 17, David is one of the Philippines’ leading biblical scholars, holding a doctorate in theology from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. He studied for the priesthood at the Jesuit-run San Jose Seminary, the same institution that produced Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who is now a top official at the Vatican.

David, a politically outspoken bishop, was also one of the staunchest critics of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

In a message ahead of the synod, David said, “We pray that the Synod may become an opportunity for genuine renewal among our laity, religious, and ordained ministers, so that we can grow together in greater synodality into a more participatory Church.” –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email