Alarcon installed as Caceres archbishop

May 3, 2024 - 11:06 AM
Archbishop Rex Andrew Alarcon is seated in his cathedra during his installation Mass at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral on May 2, 2024. (Photo from Archdiocese of Caceres)

Archbishop Rex Andrew Alarcon took the helm of the Archdiocese of Caceres on Thursday, saying he came ‘not as a king’ but a servant and part of the Church community on a mission.

Alarcon, who led the Diocese of Daet for the past five years, was officially installed by papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown in around a two-hour installation Mass at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.

After the reading of the apostolic letter from Pope Francis, appointing Alarcon to lead the Caceres archdiocese, Brown gave the new archbishop his crosier and led him to his cathedra or episcopal chair.

“I entered the boundaries of the archdiocese not as a king… but as undeserving servant called to duty, called to step up towards a heavier cross, but nevertheless, the cross of Jesus,” Alarcon said in his homily.

“I pray, and kindly help me do so, dear brothers and sisters, that I may pursue, not my personal plans, but rather seek God’s plans,” he said.

The Mass drew around 30 bishops and more than 300 priests and nuns to the cathedral, the seat of the archdiocese.

At 53 years old, Alarcon is the youngest among the 16 active archbishops in the Philippines today.

At a press conference held the day before, he illustrated among his visions for the archdiocese — a Church where everyone is welcome and working together.

“I am not the Church, we are the Church. So this is an invitation for us to work together, and to appreciate, to celebrate together the giftedness we have received,” Alarcon said.

“Things happen not simply because of the bishop… it is because of the community — the clergy and the lay people,” he said.

The archbishop also recognized the works done by his predecessors “and I am here to continue the good that they have done”.

“And we build from our strength. We recognize, and we thank God for the strength that we have,” he said.

More than 2,500 Catholics from all walks of life filled one of Bicol region’s largest churches and its grounds to welcome him.

Among the church leaders present were Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila; Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, apostolic nuncio to Israel and apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine; and Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Pope Francis appointed Alarcon as the fifth archbishop of Caceres on February 22 this year.

He succeeded retired Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona, 77, who held the position for the last 12 years years. With his installation, the Daet diocese is now “sede vacante” or vacant until a new bishop is appointed and installed.

“You have enriched me in many ways. We journeyed together through the pandemic. Thanks be to God, we survived, and we discovered that God does not abandon us,” he told the the clergy and lay faithful of the diocese.

Alarcon arrived in Naga on Wednesday, where he was also welcomed in a civic reception arranged by city and provincial government officials.

In his speech, the archbishop emphasized the importance of collaboration and working together, “particularly for the good of those entrusted to our care”.

“We have come to a time where we need synergy, interdependence, collaboration that we must resist working in silos, because the phenomena that we face cannot be overcome by a single individual or by a single group,” he said.

After his priestly ordination in 1996, Alarcon served in various capacities including as a parochial vicar at the Naga Cathedral and private secretary to Archbishop Leonardo Legazpi.

In 1999, Alarcon went to Rome to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he obtained a Licentiate in Church History.

When he returned to Caceres in 2001, he took on several roles, including as formator at the Holy Rosary Major Seminary, assistant director of the Family Ministry, and director of the Stewardship Program.

From 2003 to 2007, he once again served as private secretary to Archbishop Legaspi, making him the longest-serving secretary to the late prelate.

Alarcon is also a notable figure in the Catholic education ministry. As a Caceres priest, he led the Bicol Association of Catholic Schools and served as president of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP).

He was ordained to the episcopate on March 19, 2019. Alarcon was installed as the bishop of Daet on the following day.

Currently, he is the chairman of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Youth.