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New Novaliches bishop pays tribute to predecessor

New Novaliches bishop pays tribute to predecessor
The Most Rev. Roberto Gaa was installed as the third bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Novaliches on Saturday, Aug. 24. ROY LAGARDE

By Roy Lagarde

August 24, 2019

Manila, Philippines

Bishop Roberto Gaa thanked his predecessor Antonio Tobias and called his contribution to the diocese “very great” during his installation as the new head of Novaliches on Saturday.

Bishop Tobias retired last June 6 although he continued to oversee the diocese as apostolic administrator until Gaa formally assumed his post.

In his message at the ceremony at the Good Shepherd Cathedral, Bishop Gaa paid tribute to Tobias for his “ardor service for God’s people”.

“He’s been a great vessel of the spirit to bring life, vitality, and firmness in faith, to bring resolute for God’s people,” he said, drawing applause from the crowd.

“These are very big shoes to fill but I trust in the Lord, who has guided the diocese,” Bishop Gaa said, as he asked Tobias for guidance in the great task ahead of him.

More than 1,500 people turn out for the ceremony to welcome the third bishop of the 16-year old and fast-growing diocese.

Bishop Gaa was installed by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, in which Novaliches is one of its suffragan dioceses.

The canonical installation took place two days after his episcopal ordination at the Manila Cathedral on Aug. 22.

The bishop is not new to the diocese. In 2001, when Novaliches was still under the Manila archdiocese, Gaa was assigned at a parish in Pangarap Village.

“And even then we have land problems and the people at that time were being driven out. Now, even the church is being driven out,” Bishop Gaa said.

Back then, Novaliches was also considered a “mission area” because it needed many catechists, “just too much that maybe even the diocese could not afford,” he said.

Within the diocese is also the slum district of Payatas where the prelate also had an apostolate.

Today, the area is the location of a huge church that has been under construction since 2016 and touted to be the symbol of the rapid growth of the diocese, which now has nearly two million Catholics.

“I think we have lifted ourselves up from being a mission area, totally dependent on the Archdiocese of Manila and now standing on our own feet,” he added.

Gaa, 56, was ordained priest in September 2000 for the Manila archdiocese. On June 6, Pope Francis appointed him as bishop of Novaliches.

The bishop has asked the faithful for prayers as he starts his new ministry.

“Continue to pray and guide us so that everything we do will be according to the will of God,” he said.

Also present during the ceremony were Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, and eight other bishops. CBCPNEWS