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Filipino bishop dies playing basketball at age 67

Bishop Enrique de Vera Macaraeg of Tarlac is thought to have suffered a heart attack

 Bishop Enrique Macaraeg of Tarlac diocese in the Philippines is seen in this file image.

Bishop Enrique Macaraeg of Tarlac diocese in the Philippines is seen in this file image. (Courtesy: Sau Agustin Pastoral Station via Rappler.com)

Published: October 25, 2023 09:09 AM GMT

Updated: October 25, 2023 12:00 PM GMT

Catholics in the Philippines are mourning Bishop Enrique de Vera Macaraeg of Tarlac diocese who died on Oct. 23 at age 67.

Macaraeg collapsed and died from an apparent heart attack while playing basketball in Malasaqui, in Pangasinan province, according to the bishops’ conference news website.

He died seven years after Pope Francis appointed him bishop of Tarlac in 2016.

He was also chairman of the Catholic bishops' Commission on the Laity.

A video of the bishop’s last moments went viral on social media, Philstar reported on Oct. 24.

This prompted the diocese to issue a statement asking everyone to refrain from sharing the video.

Macaraeg was ordained priest for Lingayen-Dagupan archdiocese in 1979.

Father O’neal Sanchez, vicar general of Tarlac diocese, asked Catholics to pray for the late bishop.

“With grief and sadness in our hearts, we ask you to continue to pray for his eternal repose,” Sanchez said in a statement, the Philippine News Agency reported.

Macaraeg's body was taken to San Sebastian Cathedral in Tarlac City.

Funeral details would be posted on the diocese’s social media account Sanchez said.

Macaraeg became the second Filipino bishop to die in office this year.

Bishop Victor Ocampo of Gumaca diocese died on his 71st birthday on March 16 after also suffering a heart attack, Philstar reported.

Macaraeg's death now leaves seven dioceses in the Catholic-majority Philippines without a bishop. Some are due to the deaths of incumbent bishops, while others were transferred or retired.

Born on Dec. 28, 1955, Macaraeg studied Philosophy and Theology at the University of Santo Tomas Central Seminary in Manila. He obtained his Master of Arts in Oriental Religions and Cultures.

Many remember Macaraeg as a bishop who reached out to the world’s peripheries, following the example of Pope Francis — aside from being a huge fan of basketball, reports say.

In May, on his sixth episcopal anniversary, Macaraeg spoke about the gift of being a shepherd as “coming from God,” Rappler.com reported.

“We show our appreciation for this gift by being gifts ourselves, giving ourselves in service. That is what we have been called to do, our mission — service, to serve God, to serve the Church, to serve God’s people. That’s the reason for our being bishops, being priests,” Macaraeg said.

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