Filipino Catholic bishops meet with Pope Francis in the Vatican during the last week of May for their ad limina visit. (Photo courtesy of Bishop Roberto Mallari)
A Catholic bishop in the Philippines wants to allow laypeople or nuns to administer dioceses instead of priests.
Bishop Francisco de Leon of Antipolo made the proposal when he met with Pope Francis during an ad limina visit by Philippine bishops to Rome last month to report on the state of their dioceses or prelatures.
"I think and I feel that it’s high time for us bishops to leave the administration of the diocese to competent laity or religious persons," said the bishop.
Bishop de Leon said the prelates should instead focus their attention on "praying, preaching and new evangelization." By allowing laypeople or religious persons to run dioceses, bishops can spend more time on their pastoral duties, he said.
"I told the pope that what we need is a competent layperson who should have managerial skills and who is already retired so that he will have no more financial burdens," said Bishop de Leon.
He said nuns could also act as diocesan administrators. "If they can administer a school, why can’t they administer a diocese?" he asked.
Bishop de Leon said the pope told him that lay administrators are being appointed in places where there is a lack of priests such as Germany.
He said the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines might consider the proposal in the future.
"The pope did not say no, he did not object," said Bishop de Leon. "He said it has been done, it is being done. So why can’t we do it?"
The prelate said among the proposals made by bishops during the meeting with Pope Francis was to ordain permanent deacons in the Philippines. The pontiff left it to the bishops to decide on the matter.
For three weeks, from May 20 to June 8, three sets of Filipino bishops were in Rome for the obligatory visit to the pope.