Pope Francis names new bishops for southern Philippines
Newly appointed prelates of Butuan and Isabela dioceses both hail from Bohol province.
Father Leo Dalmao, CMF, left, has become bishop of Isabela, while Father Cosme Almedilla has been named the new prelate in Butuan. (Photos supplied)
Pope Francis named this week two new Filipino bishops who will serve in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.
The pontiff named Father Cosme Almedilla prelate of Butuan and Claretian missionary priest Leo Dalmao bishop of Isabela in Basilan province.
Father Almedilla, who hails from Talibon Diocese in Bohol province, will succeed Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos who died in October 2017.
Father Dalmao, who also comes from Bohol province, will take over the post left by Bishop Martin Jumoad who was named prelate of Ozamiz in 2016.
Father Dalmao currently serves as General Consultor and General Prefect of Formation of the Claretian congregation.
At 49, he becomes the first Filipino Claretian missionary to join the College of Bishops.
Pastor who smells like the flock
Father Elias Ayuban, CMF, superior of the Claretian congregation in the Philippines, said the people of Basilan "deserve a pastor who knows the plight of the faithful."
"I'm so happy for the people of Basilan," said Father Ayuban.
Father Dalmao’s first assignment following his ordination to the priesthood in 1997 was with the Sama-Badjau tribe in the province.
"His years staying there provided him the chance to know and experience the life and mission of the congregation," said Father Ayuban.
Basilan, considered to be the birthplace of the bandit Abu Sayyaf group, has been a hotbed of extremism over the past three decades.
Several members of the clergy, including Claretian missionaries, and church workers have been either killed or abducted.
Father Ayuban said the appointment of Father Dalmao, who once served as superior of the congregation in the Philippines, is consistent with the call of Pope Francis "to leave our comfort zones and to go the geographical peripheries of the Church."
"I consider Basilan as one of the peripheries of the Church ... and there's no better place for a Claretian to be assigned than a place like Basilan," said the priest.
Sons of Bohol province
Both bishops-elect hail from the Bohol province in the central Philippines and are also both products of the Jesuit-run Loyola School of Theology in Manila.
Father Dalmao was born in Tagbilaran and entered the Claretian congregation in 1986. He finished his philosophy studies at St. Anthony Mary Claret College.
After finishing his theology studies, he was ordained a priest by the late Bishop Emeritus Jose Maria Querejeta Mendizabal of Isabela in 1997.
Bishop Mendizabal was a Spanish missionary who served as the first Claretian bishop in the Philippines.
In 2000, Father Dalmao was named Prefect of Students and three years later, became Novice Master while serving as Consultor and Prefect of Formation of the Philippine Province.
In 2010, he was elected superior of the Philippine Province of the Claretian missionaries.
While serving in this post, he was elected co-chairperson of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines until he was transferred to Rome in 2015.
Bishop-elect Almedilla, meanwhile, was born in San Miguel, in Bohol.
He took up philosophy at St. John XXII College Seminary in Malaybalay City and the Loyola School of Theology in Manila.
After his ordination in 1987, he served at the Holy Child Parish in Ubay, Bohol.
He used to be spiritual director at the John XXII College Seminary and director of the Holy Child Academy in Bohol, and chaplain at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa City.
Since 2015, Almedill, who is known for his promotion of the Basic Ecclesial Community movement, has been assistant pastoral director of the Diocese of Talibon.