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Embattled Zamboanga needs a bishop, says archdiocese

Thousands of refugees put local priests under stress

Embattled Zamboanga needs a bishop, says archdiocese

Philippine army troops run for cover on Wednesday to avoid sniper fire (photo by Al Jacinto) reporter, Zamboanga City

September 11, 2013

An administrator with the archdiocese that oversees the embattled southern city of Zamboanga said the current crisis points to the desperate need for a bishop to be appointed.

Monsignor Crisologo Manongas said he and local clergy have been trying to manage the situation, as a tense standoff between government troops and rebel fighters from the Moro National Liberation Front continues.

Fighting continued today as about 250 hostages, including a Catholic priest, remain in the custody of rebel forces. Six people have been killed and dozens more injured during the clashes that began on Monday.

Thousands of refugees have also fled the city and put a strain on clergy in the area to tend to those in need.

“We can manage, but it’s really difficult,” Manongas said. “I’m glad the priests are cooperating and helping us.”

He added, “I’m sort of the security guard, [manager] and speaker of the diocese,” adding that he hoped Pope Francis would soon appoint a bishop who would be instrumental in maintaining order and directing assistance to those in need during times of crisis.

“We have been making our request and we have been hoping. All we can do now is simply wait,” Manongas said.

The Archdiocese of Zamboanga has been without a bishop for nearly two years, after Archbishop Romulo Valles was appointed head of the Archdiocese of Davao last year.

Zamboanga is one of several vacant sees in the Philippines. Others include the dioceses of Imus, Gumaca, Dumaguete, Romblon, San Carlos, Bontoc-Lagawe, Infanta and Kalookan.

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