A Filipino priest was elected head of the Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominican Order, during the congregation's general chapter in Vietnam on July 13.
Father Gerard Francisco Timoner OP became the 88th master of the 800-year-old mendicant religious order and the first Asian to hold the post.
The 51-year-old priest led the Philippine province of the Dominicans and served as socius
, or assistant, for Asia and the Pacific of the outgoing Dominican master, Father Bruno Cadore of France.
In 2014, Pope Francis named Father Timoner to the International Theological Commission, a 30-member Vatican body tasked with examining questions on doctrinal matters.
Father Timoner was born on Jan. 26, 1968, in Daet in Camarines Norte province in the Philippines.
He obtained his philosophy degree from the Philippine Dominican Center of International Studies and his theology degree from the University of Santo Tomas
in Manila. He was ordained a priest in 1995.
In 2004, he finished his licentiate in sacred theology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
He served as vice rector for religious affairs and rector of the UST Central Seminary from 2007 to 2012.
In a message after his election, Father Timoner emphasized the importance of evangelization, mission and the order’s focus on preaching.
"Mission is not what we do. It is who we are. And if that is clear, everything will just follow. We are preachers. That is our identity," said the priest.
The election of Father Timoner as head of the congregation added to the growing role played by Asian religious in the Catholic Church.
In the book The Strength of a Vocation
, Pope Francis
noted that it was "rare to see general superiors, men and women, who come from other continents."
The pontiff said the election of non-Europeans as leaders of religious congregations "is good news that makes us happy."
"As time goes by, this change of the face of the Church is more and more visible, a fruit of its history and the marvel of evangelization," said Pope Francis.
Dominican priest Timothy Radcliffe, a former Master of the Order of Preachers, said in an interview with The Tablet
that the election of Father Timoner "reflects the Church’s growth in Asia."
"We elected [Father Timoner] because he is a joyful preacher and a qualified theologian," Father Radcliffe was quoted as saying. "It is also significant that he is Asian, though that is not why we elected him."
The Dominican Order
, which was established by Spanish priest Dominic de Guzman in France in 1216, has friars, nuns and affiliated laypeople as members.
Prominent Dominicans include St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the most influential Western philosophers and theologians, and St. Catherine of Siena, a mystic and church reformer.