Catholic Church

Pagadian Bishop Ronald Lunas, pride of Davao del Sur, dies at 57

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Pagadian Bishop Ronald Lunas, pride of Davao del Sur, dies at 57

REST IN PEACE. Bishop Ronald Lunas of the Diocese of Pagadian dies at the age of 57 on January 2, 2023.

Diocese of Pagadian's Facebook page via CBCP News

Pagadian Bishop Ronald Lunas, the first ‘homegrown’ bishop of the 44-year-old Diocese of Digos, dies in a Davao City hospital days after a heart bypass surgery

MANILA, Philippines – Pagadian Bishop Ronald Lunas, the first prelate produced by the Catholic Church in Davao del Sur, died at the age of 57 on Tuesday, January 2.

Lunas was pronounced dead at 8:28 am on Tuesday, Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles told the secretariat of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

This comes days after Lunas underwent a heart bypass surgery on December 28, 2023, said CBCP News, citing information from the Pagadian Cathedral. The bishop had been in the hospital since November 2023 after suffering a heart attack and a stroke.

Born on November 27, 1966, Lunas was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Digos on April 7, 1992, at the age of 25. 

The Diocese of Digos is a 44-year-old Catholic territory that covers Davao del Sur and portions of Sarangani in the southern Philippines. It has a population of more than 761,500 Catholics.

On November 22, 2018, Pope Francis named Lunas the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Pagadian, a 50-year-old territory that is also found in Mindanao. The Diocese of Pagadian has a population of more than 828,400 Catholics in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur, as well as 25 municipalities in northern and eastern Zamboanga province.

When the Pope made him a prelate, Catholic publications such as CBCP News and Davao Catholic Herald celebrated the fact that Lunas was the first “homegrown” bishop from the Diocese of Digos. CBCP News called him “Digos’ first bishop-son.”

Since 2021, Lunas has also led the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Basic Ecclesial Communities, the small communities that aim to strengthen the faith of Catholics at the grassroots level.

‘Not about me’

Lunas was born in Magsaysay, Davao del Sur, and studied philosophy and theology in Davao City – the former at Saint Francis Xavier College Seminary and the latter at Saint Francis Regional Major Seminary.

In 1996, four years after he was ordained a priest, Lunas obtained his licentiate in sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

In a Mass on February 10, 2019, a day before he was ordained a bishop, Lunas said the episcopacy, which means being a Catholic bishop, should be selfless in nature.

“This episcopacy is not about me, in the first place. It is about the mercy of God on me, his unworthy servant,” Lunas said.

“The Lord expects me not to be successful but to be faithful in keeping pure and teaching in word and in deed the faith contained in the Sacred Word of God, written or handed on, and the teachings and discipline of the Church as well,” he added.

Lunas, a devotee of the Virgin Mary, also extolled the Blessed Mother. “Mary is the designer of my ministry and life,” the bishop from Digos said. – Rappler.com

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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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com