New Antipolo bishop installed, wants to make Rizal ‘pilgrimage capital’

New Antipolo Bishop Ruperto Santos, 65, is one of the Philippines’ most politically outspoken prelates who once called Rodrigo Duterte ‘a disgrace’

MANILA, Philippines – New Antipolo Bishop Ruperto Santos laid out his vision to make his diocese the “spiritual pilgrimage capital” of the Philippines as he was installed as the fifth bishop of Antipolo on Saturday, July 22.

Hindi ba’t magandang tingnan, pangarapin, at gawin na tayo, ang Diyosesis ng Antipolo, ang lalawigan ng Rizal, ay maging spiritual pilgrimage capital of the Philippines?” said Santos in a homily during his installation.

(Is it not good to see, dream, and fulfill for the Diocese of Antipolo, the province of Rizal, to be the spiritual pilgrimage capital of the Philippines?)

Hinding hindi ko sasayangin ang inyong pinagpaguran,” Santos also said. “Ako po ay katuwang lamang.” (I will not waste the fruits of your labor…. I am only a partner.)

Santos replaced Bishop Francisco de Leon, who had reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in June 2022 and whose resignation was accepted by Pope Francis on May 24. De Leon was present at Santos’ installation, along with prelates such as papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown, Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula, and Antipolo Auxiliary Bishop Nolly Buco.

Brown, the Pope’s representative in the Philippines, presided over Santos’ installation as new Antipolo bishop.

“The Church, brothers and sisters, this morning celebrates continuity, that gift of continuity, that gift of continuing to be the people of God in history,” Brown said in a brief message during Santos’ installation. He later turned to Santos, “Thank you, Your Excellency, for your availability for the work of the Church here in Antipolo.”

Southeast Asia’s first international shrine

The Diocese of Antipolo is home to the first international Catholic shrine in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia: the Antipolo Cathedral.

The cathedral formally became an international shrine on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, following a decree from the Holy See.

Formally known as the International Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, the church was built in 1632, was destroyed several times due to earthquakes and conflicts, and was reconstructed in 1954.

FAST FACTS: Antipolo Cathedral, the first international shrine in the Philippines

For nearly four centuries, Filipino pilgrims have flocked to this church to seek the Blessed Mother’s blessings for new life journeys such as working overseas, or simply to have a new car blessed by a priest.

Even the national hero Jose Rizal “visited the shrine as a boy with his father, Francisco Mercado, on June 6, 1868,” according to the Antipolo Cathedral website.

“The pair went on pilgrimage to fulfill a vow Rizal’s mother, Teodora Alonso, had made when she and the boy survived his delivery,” the website said.

Altar, Architecture, Building
‘PILGRIM CAPITAL.’ The Antipolo Cathedral, the seat of the bishop, is the Philippines’ first international Catholic shrine.

The Diocese of Antipolo is also one of the most populous dioceses in the Philippines.

The diocese covers not only the city of Antipolo, but the whole province of Rizal and the whole of Marikina City. Carved out of the Archdiocese of Manila in 1983, the diocese is composed of more than 3.3 million Catholics.

Politically outspoken bishop

Santos, who was born in San Rafael, Bulacan, was the bishop of Balanga, Bataan, for nearly 30 years.

The 65-year-old Santos is a politically outspoken prelate who, in 2019, called then-president Rodrigo Duterte a “disgrace” over his bloody anti-drug campaign.

He also led the Diocese Diocese of Balanga in condemning plans to revive the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) – a pet project of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. His son President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is now considering reviving the power plant.

INSTALLED. New Antipolo Bishop Ruperto Santos sits on the cathedra, the seat of the bishop, at the Antipolo Cathedral.

The new Antipolo bishop studied philosophy and theology at San Carlos Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood by then-Manila archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin on September 10, 1983.

He earned his licentiate in history from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1990, and later became a church history professor at San Carlos Seminary and rector of the Pontificio Collegio Filippino (PCF), home of Filipino priests studying in Rome.

He was recently reelected chairman of the Episcopal Commission on the PCF of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

He is also vice chair of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People of the CBCP, making him a prime voice in caring for Filipinos abroad. –