Pasig City – Thousands of mourners filled the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in this city yesterday (August 29) for the 5pm funeral mass for the late Bishop Francisco San Diego who died Wednesday before dawn.

Laypeople, religious, 1 cardinal, 20 bishops and some 100 clergy filled the cathedral to pay their last respect to the first bishop of Pasig who died of cardiac arrest due to complications from lung cancer.

Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle was the principal celebrant of the funeral mass, while co-presider Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara gave the mass homily.

Cardinal Tagle shared some of the memories he had of his first encounter with Bp. San Diego when he was a young priest teaching in the seminary.

He said the late bishop, who was not yet bishop at that time, saw him in the corridor one time and thought he was a student loitering, so Bp. San Diego strongly admonished him to enter the classroom.

“He asked my name and why I am outside of my classroom. I said I am Fr. Chito Tagle and explained why I am outside waiting for my students. He said, “Naku, ikaw pala yung Fr. Chito. Sorry, sorry talaga,” he apologized profusely.”

Cardinal Tagle said that until the last days of Bp. San Diego’s life, like when he visited him in the hospital, he would always remember that incident and apologize.

“Way back then, Bp. San Diego once persistently asked me to give him a personal retreat and during that retreat, I saw this big burly pastor shedding tears,” Tagle said.

“This morning, we ordained a new bishop and this evening, we will bury a bishop. God is good. He will not let us down without sending new pastors to the Church,” Cardinal Tagle said in his closing message before a full-packed Cathedral.

Meanwhile, Bishop Vergara, in his homily, also shared how he first met Bp. San Diego when he was still a seminarian.

“On one occasion, Bp. San Diego visited the seminary where I was being formed to the priesthood. What was my first impression of him then and even now? Three words: bald, bold and big,” he said.

“There is no strong man working for God, whose spirit is not with Him, whose courage is not fortified, even in midst of difficulties, even now and again his body is torn apart.” This caption found in a catacomb are the words engraved in his tombstone which he personally chose,“ Vergara said.

He said the late bishop personally chose the words to be engraved in the tomb he prepared. “Perhaps because he felt this summarizes his life. They echo the words from the mass’ first reading taken from the Book of Wisdom: “The souls of the just are in the hands of God.”

At age 79, Bp. San Diego attended last August 21 mass of thanksgiving for the 12th foundation anniversary of the diocese even with frail condition.

“Even with his frail health and soft voice, he sort of gave his parting message to us,” Vergara said, “when he told us to bear fruit by being united, by becoming one, and live up to the motto of the Diocese of Pasig which he personally chose: Ut Unum Sint.”

Bp. Vergara said they would often call the good bishop: Tatay Bishop or Lolo Bishop because of his fatherly concern for the priests and lay people.

“Even before, he became bishop, he was already a living testimony of his episcopal motto: Servus Dei, that is, “Servant of God.” He was God’s selfless servant,” he added.###

By: Lou Dominguiano, Sto. Nino de Taguig parish media ministry

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