2 Filipino bishops pass away on same day

Both prelates had served as head of the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops' Conference
2 Filipino bishops pass away on same day

Left: Bishop Nicolas Mondejar of San Carlos (Photo courtesy of CBCP News). Right: Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel (Photo by Bong Sarmiento).


Two Filipino Catholic bishops died on the same day on Feb. 10.

Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, retired prelate of Marbel Diocese in the south of the country, died early in the morning at the age of 79.

The bishop had reportedly been suffering from prostate cancer and obstructive pulmonary disease.

He would have turned 80 years old on Feb. 20.

In the central Philippine diocese of San Carlos, Bishop Nicolas Mondejar, died in the afternoon. He was 94 and the country’s second oldest bishop.

Bishop Mondejar passed away as the diocese marked the 31st anniversary of the prelate's installation as the first bishop of San Carlos in Negros Occidental province.

The cause of Bishop Mondejar’s death was not immediately clear.

Fighter for the environment

Bishop Gutierrez served Marbel Diocese for 35 years.

He stayed on after the retirement age of 75 until his successor was appointed in April 2018.

Bishop Gutierrez was a strong advocate for the local environment, and stood against mining interests.

Under his leadership, the diocese’s clergy played a crucial role in fighting against a copper and gold mining project in the town of Tampakan.

Bishop Gutierrez was among church leaders who strongly criticized President Rodrigo Duterte's war against illegal drugs that has claimed the lives of at least 5,000 people according to the police. Rights groups put the death toll much higher.

Father Ariel Destora, the diocese’s social action director, said they lost a "great environmental defender."

"He was a strong advocate against open-pit mining as well as the rights of children in conflict with the law," said the priest.

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Advocate of basic ecclesial communities

Bishop Mondejar, meanwhile, is being remembered for laying down the very foundations of San Carlos Diocese.

He also established the St. John Mary Vianney College Seminary that has produced 41 priests in the past 25 years.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, the current San Carlos prelate, said the late bishop promoted a "more participatory Church through the building and strengthening of basic ecclesial communities."

Bishop Mondejar was also known for his pioneering work in promoting the tithing system in many dioceses across the country.

A native of Iloilo province, he was ordained a priest in 1953. In 1970, he entered the episcopacy when he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Cebu.

Four years later, he was appointed head of Romblon Diocese, a post he held until 1987 when he was transferred to San Carlos.

He served San Carlos for 12 years until his retirement in 2000 during which he ordained 23 priests.

Both Bishops Mondejar and Gutierrez served as chairmen of the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

Bong Sarmiento contributed to this report.

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