missionary priest has been named apostolic administrator of the southernmost vicariate of the Philippines in Sulu province. Pope Francis named Father Romeo Saniel of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate head of the vicariate
after Bishop Angelito Lampon of Jolo was appointed archbishop of Cotabato last year. The new assignments came after the Vatican accepted the resignation of Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, the country's eighth cardinal. Cardinal Quevedo tendered his resignation, as mandated by church law, on March 11, 2014, upon reaching the age of 75. He was named a cardinal two months earlier. Pope Francis accepted Cardinal Quevedo's resignation only in November last year. Father Saniel said he would continue with the church's mission of "building bridges" among his vicariate's "diverse cultures and faiths." Sulu province, in the southern region of Mindanao, is predominantly Muslim. For years, the Oblate missionaries have built schools in the island province, helping bridge gaps between Muslims and Christians. "The Oblate schools stress respect for the Muslim religion and culture, while providing affordable education to Muslim Filipinos, settlers and indigenous people," said Father Saniel. Octavio Dinampo, a Mindanao State University professor who was abducted and later freed by the Abu Sayyaf
terror group in 2008, welcomed the appointment of Father Saniel whom he described as a "sensible leader who has a firm grasp of the cultural sensitivities" of the Muslim people in the province. "He is very much respected by his peers, students, faculty and staff," said the professor, adding that the priest can "effectively sustain inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogues" in the area. Father Saniel will be installed as administrator of the vicariate, which is a suffragan of Zamboanga Archdiocese, on Jan. 30. As apostolic administrator, the priest will have the oversight power of a bishop until a new bishop is formally named. "I will continue promoting social development through housing, livelihood, cooperatives, and health care projects, which contribute to a peaceful coexistence between Muslim and Christian communities," said the priest.