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MANILA, Philippines – The Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception turned into a surprise for churchgoers in Catarman, Northern Samar, when Bishop Emmanuel Trance broke the news on Friday, December 8: Pope Francis has accepted his resignation.
Trance, 70, resigned five years before the mandatory retirement age of 75 for Catholic bishops. The auxiliary bishop of Antipolo, Nolly Buco, will temporarily take over as apostolic administrator until the Pope appoints a new bishop of Catarman.
“I am only 70 years old. We are supposed to retire at 75. But due to health reasons, and the need of the diocese to be led by a healthier and stronger bishop, I have asked the Holy Father to relieve me of the pastoral care of the diocese. Instead, I can remain only as bishop emeritus,” Trance said toward the end of Friday’s 5:30 pm Mass.
Trance knew days ago that the Pope had accepted his resignation, after papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown wrote him a “strictly confidential” letter dated December 4 that could only be divulged on December 8.
Trance’s announcement on Friday evening took place around the same time that the Vatican publicized his resignation at noon in Rome or 7 pm in Manila.
“I would also like to tell you that this Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, is the one that I chose, that I requested the apostolic nuncio for the announcement of my early retirement from the care of the Diocese of Catarman,” Trance said, noting that “this is a very significant day” for him.
Blessed Mother ‘my constant companion’
The bishop said he was ordained a priest 45 years ago in Calinog, Iloilo, whose patroness is the Immaculate Conception. He was later ordained bishop in the church of Our Lady of Candelaria, and became bishop of a diocese whose patroness is Our Lady of the Annunciation.
“So all the time, since the start of my ministry, the Blessed Mother has been my constant companion,” Trance said.
Born on August 18, 1953 in Calinog, Trance was bishop of Catarman for 18 years. It was Pope John Paul II who appointed him an assistant bishop of the Diocese of Catarman in 2004, then made him head of the diocese in 2005.
The Diocese of Catarman is composed of more than 610,000 Catholics and is relatively young, having been established in 1974.
Its first bishop was Angel Hobayan, who, as Trance noted, stayed as bishop emeritus of Catarman for 18 years before he died at the age of 93 on March 11 this year. “I hope that I can equal those times,” said Trance on Friday, referring to Hobayan’s years as bishop emeritus.
As for their diocese’s caretaker, Trance said Buco is “no stranger to our region.” The resigned bishop noted that Buco’s birthplace is Southern Leyte, and he attended Sacred Heart Seminary in Palo, Leyte, “before he transferred eventually to Antipolo.”
The diocese now needs “to prepare for his coming,” Trance said. – Rappler.com