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God's Mercy and Yours

Updated: Mar 19

Speech of H.E. Most Rev. Charles John Brown D.D., Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines

Episcopal Ordination of Most Rev. Napoleon B. Sipalay, O.P., D.D.,

Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Alaminos

March 18, 2024 | Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Manaoag


For me, as the Apostolic Nuncio here in the Philippines, it is a source of great joy, great appreciation to be with all of you here this morning, at the feet of Our Lady in this renowned Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Manaoag, for the Episcopal Ordination of His Excellency the Most Rev. Napoleon B. Sipalay, O.P., Bishop-elect until tomorrow of Alaminos.


It's wonderful to be here with Jose Cardinal Advincula, Archbishop of Manila, who gave a beautiful homily; and of course, your own dear Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas as the principal consecrator, and our host here in this beautiful minor basilica this morning.


photo from University of Sto. Thomas


Filipino Dominican Bishops

Bishop June Sipalay is a Dominican and we see that reflected very much in this church, this basilica which has been administered by the Dominican Fathers from time immemorial. We see the Dominican formation in his wonderful preaching, his eloquence; as a man of the word, as an Order of Preachers (OP).


The Dominicans began to produce bishops for the Church not long after the death of the founder, Saint Dominic, who died in 1221. Within a little more than ten years, the sons of Dominic were becoming bishops in the Church, serving the Church by being preachers—preachers of the faith—as bishops.


Here in the Philippines, the first Dominican Bishop was the first Bishop of Manila, Bishop Domingo Salazar, O.P., who came to Manila and was Bishop from 1579.


After him, there's been a series of Dominican bishops here in the Philippines. And in recent years among Filipinos—because many of the bishops who were Dominicans in the Philippines were of Spanish origin. We've had now at least two Filipino Dominican bishops: the late Archbishop-Emeritus Leonardo Z. Legaspi of (the Archdiocese of) Caceres; and the late Auxiliary Bishop Jose P. Salazar of Lipa. And now we have your beloved Most Rev. Napoleon Sipalay as the Bishop-Elect of Alaminos. What a joy! What a tradition!


I don't want to let this moment pass without—in the name of Pope Francis and the Dicastery for Bishops—saying a word of thanks, appreciation, and recognition to His Excellency, the Most Rev. Fidelis B. Layog, who has administered the Diocese of Alaminos in this period of sede vacante. Thank you, dear Bishop Layog for everything that you've done during these years. It's most appreciated by all of us.


God's Mercy and Yours

As the Cardinal (Advincula) and also, as Archbishop Villegas mentioned, the motto chosen by Bishop Sipalay is very beautiful: “Misericordiam Dei Et Vestram” (God’s Mercy and Yours). “God’s Mercy and Yours”. As you heard, those words are the response of a young Dominican when he's making his vows, his profession as a Dominican.


God's mercy and yours. We see two elements there, which have been reflected upon this morning: “God's mercy”, the vertical dimension, God our Almighty Father; and “Your mercy”, the horizontal dimension―you, the baptized people of God. So, the vertical and the horizontal dimension that are so beautifully expressed in that phrase “Misericordiam Dei Et Vestram”


When we think about the responses (think for a moment and you've got these beautifully printed programs), the final response of then-Father Sipalay before he was ordained to be a Bishop this morning. He was asked [with] these words—these were the last things he heard—before he gave his final response, “Do you resolve to pray without ceasing to almighty God for His holy people, and to carry out the office of High Priest without reproach?” It's the last question, the last question the a priest hears before he is elevated to the episcopate.


And how did Father Sipalay respond to it? “I do, with the help of God.”

His final words as a presbyter, before becoming an episkopós (as we heard). This idea of “prayer without ceasing” has to be fundamental for the bishop. It's what he promised as a condition of his ordination. He promises to pray. To pray to God for the people.


We see that beautiful double dimension in that final question, final inquiry: God and people. As we see in his episcopal motto, the vertical and the horizontal. Those vertical and horizontal dimensions are not disassociated one from the other. They come together, don't they, brothers and sisters? The vertical and the horizontal, on the cross of Jesus Christ. The horizontal beam and the vertical beam coming together in the sacrifice of Christ, the man of prayer, the man who offers himself to the Father.


So, all of these themes of God and people, of verticality and horizontality come together this morning, on these days in which we prepare to celebrate the most holy moment of the Church's Liturgical Year: Settiman Santa, Holy Week―next week—which will culminate in the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


All of these things come together today and fill our hearts with great joy.


We do all of these things under the watchful eyes of Our Lady—Our Lady of the Rosary— Mary, the one by whose “yes” the world, indeed the cosmos, was changed.


Words of Gratitude

It leads me to say once again to now, Bishop Sipalay, thank you for your “yes” to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, when he asked you to take on this new pastoral world, to be an episkopós, to pray unceasingly—without ceasing to God—for the people of God.


So, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, thank you for this wonderful and beautifully prepared liturgy this morning. I greet, of course, all my brother bishops, many concelebrating priests, especially those who are Dominicans, and those from Alaminos. You've been waiting a long time. That moment has almost arrived. It will arrive in some 24 hours when your new bishop is installed. Thank you to the religious women, especially the wonderful Dominican sisters mentioned by Bishop Sipalay. Thank you to the other sisters, religious brothers. And most of all thank you to the people, the people of Pangasinan who have come here in such great numbers to celebrate, to rejoice, to thank God for the gift of a new bishop.


In the name of Pope Francis, God bless you.


Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo



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