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Two Filipino bishops pass away on same day

MANILA (Agencies): Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez and Bishop Nicolas Mondejar, the former bishops of the dioceses of Marbel in South Cotabato, and San Carlos, Negros Occidental, the Philippines, died within hours of each other on February 1.
 
Bishop Gutierrez, who would have turned 80-years-old on February 20, died early in the morning had reportedly been suffering from prostate cancer and obstructive pulmonary disease.
 
Bishop Mondejar, who at 94-years-old was the country’s second-oldest bishop, passed away that afternoon following, The Inquirer reported that he had suffered a heart attack as the diocese marked the 31st anniversary of his installation as its first bishop.
 
Bishop Gutierrez served Marbel for 35 years and was a strong advocate for the local environment, and stood against mining interests.
 
Under his leadership, the diocese’s clergy played a crucial role in fighting against a copper and gold mining project in the town of Tampakan.
 
Bishop Gutierrez was among the Church leaders who have been strongly critical of the war on drugs of the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, that has claimed the lives of at least 5,000 people according to the police. Rights groups put the death toll much higher.
 
Father Ariel Destora, the diocese’s social action director, said they lost a “great environmental defender.”
 
“He was a strong advocate against open-pit mining as well as the rights of children in conflict with the law,” the priest said.
 
He stayed on after the retirement age of 75 until his successor was appointed in April 2018.
 
Bishop Mondejar, meanwhile, is remembered for laying down the very foundations of the Diocese of San Carlos. He also established the St. John Mary Vianney College Seminary which turned out 41 priests over the past 25 years.
 
CBCPNews reported Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, the present bishop of San Carlos, as saying that the late bishop promoted a “more participatory Church through the building and strengthening of basic ecclesial communities.”
 
Bishop Mondejar was also known for his pioneering work in promoting the tithing system in many dioceses across the country.
 
A native of Iloilo province, he was ordained a priest in 1953. In 1970, he entered the episcopacy when he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Cebu.
 
Four years later, he was to head the Diocese of Romblon, a post he held until 1987 when he was transferred to San Carlos.
 
He served San Carlos for 12 years until his retirement in 2000 during which time he ordained 23 priests.
 
Both Bishop Mondejar and Bishop Gutierrez served as chairpersons of the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

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