In the Philippines yesterday, the erstwhile archbishop of one of Catholicism’s global hot spots turned 80. Gaudencio Borbon Cardinal Rosales thus lays down all his duties in the College of Cardinals, and the number of cardinal electors drops to 119.

Born into a physician’s family with political ties in Batangas City in 1932, Gaudencio Rosales expressed his desire to become a priest from a young age. Studying theology at the San José seminary, his ordination to the priesthood came in 1958. He was a priest of the Diocese of Lipa and was assigned to teach at that diocese’s seminary. Later he also became that institution’s rector.

In 1970, there followed Fr. Rosales’ first assignment to a backwater parish. Other priests advised him to leave soon, but Fr. Rosales replied that he would find things to do there. He made contacts with all the faithful of his parish and seemingly made an impression. The bishop, Msgr. Ricardo Vidal, also noticed, and had Fr. Rosales assigned to Batangas City, to the largest parish in the diocese.

In 1974, Fr. Rosales left Lipa, which by then was made an archdiocese, to take up his assignment, as auxiliary bishop of the nation’s capital, Manila. Principal consecrator was the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Bruno Torpigliani, and Archbishop Vidal was one of the co-consecrators. Bishop Rosales was given the titular see of Oescus in modern Bulgaria. As bishop, he was assigned to oversee several major districts of the archdiocese, and in 1980, he was tasked with the job of rector of the ancient San Carlos Seminary.

Two years, later Bishop Rosales appointed as coadjutor bishop of Malaybalay, on the major southern island of Mindanao. In 1984 he succeeded retiring Bishop Francisco Claver.

After eight years, Bishop Rosales had to leave Malaybalay behind him again, no doubt with pain in his heart, although he did return home as archbishop of his native Lipa. Eleven years later, in 2003, he was reassigned for a final time, again to a diocese familiar to him. Archbishop Rosales became the Primate of the Philippines as he took the see of Manila.

In Pope Benedict XVI’s first consistory, Archbishop Rosales was created a cardinal, with Santissimo Nome di Maria in Via Latina as his title church.

In 2007, upon reaching the age of 75, Cardinal Rosales tendered his resignation as archbishop of Manila, but it would take until 2011 before Rome accepted it. Yesterday he turned 80, leaving the Philippines with no cardinal electors. Until the next conclave, that is.

Cardinal Rosales was not silent. He was critical of the government when needed and defended the teachings of the Church, which lead to clashes, especially concerning the participation of drag queens in the national Flores De Mayo festival, and reminding the faithful about the risk of excommunication for anyone participating in or allowing an abortion. On the other side of the spectrum, he also got into a conflict with traditionalist groups when he heavily curtailed the celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form. This led to an order from Rome to reconsider his opposition.

Cardinal Rosales was a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organisational and Economic Affairs of the Holy See.

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