By Leslie Ann Aquino
Archbishop Socrates Villegas on Monday marked his tenth year anniversary as head of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan in Pangasinan.
In a pastoral message, the prelate thanked God for the ten years of blessings He has bestowed upon him and the archdiocese.
But Villegas said the decade is not all “fragrance and sweetness.”
“Into each life some rain must fall, said Longfellow. We have seen the death of ten of our priests. We grieved when two deacons and three priests abandoned the clerical state of life,” he said.
“In our witnessing to truth, we have been charged like seditious criminals. The Lord has given; the Lord has taken away. Blessed be His name,” added Villegas.
Last July, the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation Detection Group filed a complaint against a number of personalities including church leaders accusing them of cyber libel and sedition. Bishops included in the complaint are Archbishop Villegas, Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco and retired Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr.
The complaint was in connection with the series of online “Bikoy” videos alleging that President Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade.
Even then, Villegas said God stayed on relentlessly loving them.
“Salvation and grace have visited the Church in Lingayen-Dagupan not because of anyone’s worthiness, not because of me nor of anyone, but only because of the mercy of God,” he said.
“If the Lord had not been with us, how would we have created in the past ten years the twenty three new parishes and pastoral stations to make the Church closer to God’s flock?” Villegas added.
Among the many blessings cited by the prelate include the appointment of three bishops from their local clergy; the opening of the Mary Help of Christians Theology Seminary in Palapad; the elevation of the Manaoag Church as a minor basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary to mention a few.
“How fast time flies. We have reached this part of our journey because God has willed it and blessed us. We would not have been preserved from destruction if we had not been called forth by the Lord. Indeed the Lord loves everything that He has made,” Villegas said.
The prelate was installed in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan on November 4, 2009. Villegas used to be assigned in Balanga, Bataan.