1998-12-21 00:00:00

Archbishop Alberto Piamonte of Jaro died Dec. 17 as doctors here were preparing to airlift him to Manila for heart treatment.

"When he was being wheeled onto the plane, I saw him looking up to heaven. At 9 a.m. the doctor came out of the plane saying that Monsignor Piamonte was not responding anymore," archdiocesan media director Father Espiridion Celis Jr. told UCA News.

Two days earlier, Archbishop Piamonte suffered a massive heart attack and was brought to the intensive care unit of St. Paul Hospital in Iloilo City, 450 kilometers southeast of Manila.

Father Celis said that Archbishop Piamonte´s family, doctors and some Jaro clergy were assisting him on board the plane when his condition deteriorated further at around 8 a.m.

According to Father Celis, the archbishop was aware that he was being moved and said that he was experiencing a general feeling of fatigue but felt no pain.

The media director said that the private plane sent by Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila arrived late Wednesday afternoon but did not risk flying Archbishop Piamonte to Manila at night because of bad weather.

The 64-year-old prelate was a native of Jaro, just northeast of here, and had served the archdiocese for nearly 40 years since his appointment as vice-chancellor in 1960, two years after his ordination to the priesthood.

He earned his licentiate in canon law from the Dominican-run Pontifical University of Santo Tomas in Manila and his doctorate in the same field from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

He was the first Filipino advocate of the Vatican-based Roman Rota, the ordinary court of appeal for cases on matters of ecclesiastical law appealed to the Holy See, notably cases involving the validity of marriage.

In 1975, he became auxiliary bishop of Jaro. He was installed as ordinary of the archdiocese on the central Philippine island of Panay in 1986.

At the time of his death, Archbishop Piamonte was chairman of the Commission on Canon Law of the Catholic Bishops´ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). He had been a member of the CBCP Administrative Council from 1977-1981 and a member of the CBCP Permanent Council from 1983-1987 and 1993-1996.

In Iloilo, Archbishop Piamonte led the Church´s opposition to plans to amend the Constitution to extend the term of former president Fidel Ramos last year. He also led protests against a government-sanctioned lottery and promoted protection of the environment through tree-planting and other activities.

Archbishop Piamonte was among the 13 Philippine Synod Fathers at the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia, held April 19-May 14 at the Vatican.

Father Celis said that lingering heart and bronchial problems did not slow the archbishop down, citing Dec. 13 confirmation rites for some 2,000 young people in a town 60 kilometers north of Iloilo at which the prelate presided.

The following day he presided over the profession of a nun and in the evening received two groups of Christmas carolers at his residence, the priest said, adding that Archbishop Piamonte went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in November.

"We feel the loss, but God called him and there is no one that could stand in the way," Father Celis said.

Jaro archdiocese covers the civil provinces of Iloilo and Guimaras, and Iloilo City, 93 percent of whose combined population of 1.8 million are Catholics.


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