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Archbishop rings the changes

The message doesn't change, says texting prelate

Archbishop Jose Palma (third from left) meets with Cebu provincial political leaders. Archbishop Jose Palma (third from left) meets with Cebu provincial political leaders.
  • Betty Perdon, Cebu City
  • Philippines
  • June 22, 2011
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"The first time I received a text message from him, I saved it in my phone. It was new to me, receiving a text message from an archbishop," says Father Brian Brigoli, parochial vicar of Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.

He is talking about Cebu’s newly installed Archbishop Jose Palma.  Since his installation in January, the 61-year-old archbishop has gained a reputation for being tech-savvy and highly accessible, both to his clergy and the people of his diocese.

Father Romeo Gilbuela Desuyo of Our Lady of the Remedies parish in Odlot, Bogo City, is another who exchanges texts with Archbishop Palma. "The archbishop gave his cellphone number to all the priests," he says.

Father Erwin Miro adds that "Palma is not keen on protocol. You can talk to him any time. He is a shepherd, a father and a friend."

The practice of reaching out to his priests and the people is not new to the archbishop, who leaves for Rome this week to receive his pallium as prelate of Cebu from the Holy Father.

"I had been doing this in the past," Archbishop Palma says, adding that he wants people to perceive priests as always being  available to serve.

Rene Bullecer, country director of anti-abortion activist organisation Human Life International, says the time  the archbishop spends on reading and answering text messages is "commendable for a father of an archdiocese."

But Archbishop Palma modestly admits that he tries his best but is "not always very prompt" in answering.

Monsignor Cristobal Garcia, head of the archdiocesan Commission on Worship, describes the prelate's accessibility as a form of "modern day evangelization."

"St. Paul used letters and couriers because those were the means of communication in his day,” he says. “Today we have to use what is available to glorify God and spread the Gospel and thus hasten the coming of the Kingdom of Christ.”
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