Filipino bishops

Pope Francis names Philippines’ first Dominican bishop in decades

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Pope Francis names Philippines’ first Dominican bishop in decades

NEW BISHOP. Father Napoleon Sipalay Jr is set to lead the Diocese of Alaminos, Pangasinan.

UST video screenshot

Father Napoleon Sipalay Jr., an official of the University of Santo Tomas and former head of Filipino Dominicans, is the new bishop of Alaminos, Pangasinan

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis named the Philippines’ first Dominican bishop in nearly three decades, Father Napoleon Sipalay Jr., who fills a four-year vacancy in the Diocese of Alaminos, Pangasinan.

The Vatican announced the appointment at noon, Rome time, as the Pope was delivering his weekly Angelus speech at Saint Peter’s Square.

A 53-year-old native of Davao, Sipalay is the outgoing vice rector of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Central Seminary. He succeeds Ricardo Baccay, who was named archbishop of Tuguegarao in 2019.

He is also the former head of the influential Dominican order in the Philippines, which runs UST, the oldest existing university in Asia. He was the prior provincial of Filipino Dominicans from 2016 to 2021.

Sipalay is set to lead a nearly 40-year-old diocese composed of more than 584,000 Catholics from 14 municipalities in western Pangasinan.

Dominican priest Father Winston Cabading, superior of the Dominican house in Caleruega and a former UST secretary general, told Rappler on Sunday that Sipalay is the Philippines’ first Dominican bishop since the time of Pope John Paul II.

John Paul II appointed the late Dominican priest Jose Paala Salazar as bishop of Batanes in 1996. He also served as auxiliary bishop of Butuan and Lipa before he died in 2004.

“It is an honor certainly for the Dominican Province of the Philippines and UST. We pray for him as the  new ministry he will assume is no easy matter. May the Holy Spirit guide him,” Cabading told Rappler.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of the Ecclesiastial Province of Lingayen-Dagupan, where the Diocese of Alaminos belongs, also confirmed that Sipalay is the country’s first Dominican bishop since 1996.

Other Filipino bishops have taken vows to become “professed members” of the Dominican order, but are not “homegrown” members of the Order of Preachers who underwent Dominican formation from the beginning.

Villegas, who trained in Manila’s San Carlos Seminary, himself became a professed member of the Dominican order in 2015.

The appointment of Sipalay is significant because different religious orders possess their own identities and charisms. Sipalay is expected to bring the Dominican order’s focus on truth – and its brand of effective preaching – not only to his diocese but to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Francis, the first Jesuit pope, has been known to appoint many of his fellow Jesuits or Jesuit-trained diocesan priests to key positions in the Catholic Church. The Jesuits are known for a spirituality that works for social justice. –

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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