Virac, Catanduanes – During the episcopal installation of Bishop Luisito Occiano, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Charles Brown, delivered a heartfelt message:

“Archbishop of Manila, Your Grace Rex Andrew Clement Alarcon, Archbishop of Cáceres, Your Excellency the Most Reverend Luisito Audal Occiano, now Bishop of Virac, Your Excellency the Most Reverend Gilbert A. Garcera, Archbishop of Lipa, and our very gifted homilist this morning, Your Excellency Manolo Alarcon de los Santos, Bishop Emeritus of Virac, my brother bishops who have come from near and far, priests of the Diocese of Virac and certainly other dioceses including the Archdiocese of Cáceres, religious women here in such large numbers, religious brothers, you the lay faithful, the people of God here in the Diocese of Virac, today is a day of great joy, of great happiness, especially for me as your Apostolic Nuncio to see, we can say, the passing of the torch, the life of the Church continuing here in the Diocese of Virac.

We thank in a very, very special way His Excellency Manolo Alarcon de los Santos, your Bishop, now Bishop Emeritus, for his 30 years of faithful service here in this diocese. We heard in his beautiful words the beautiful fruitfulness of those 30 years seen in an increase of vocations to the priesthood, religious life, and the multiplication of parishes, Christ’s life living in this church. Now, the torch passes, and one beautiful thing about this passing of the torch, the light of life from Bishop Manolo Alarcon de los Santos to your new Bishop Luisito Audal Occiano, is that this passing has occurred without an intermediary period. We had no period here, thanks be to God, of sede vacante, when the seat is empty.

The seat was full this morning before Mass began and the seat of the diocese is full as Mass continues and ends this morning. And that is a beautiful sign of the continuation of life in the church. Brothers and sisters, the job of the Bishop, the vocation of the Bishop, is to give us the life of Christ, divine life, divine blessing. He is the channel of divine life for us.

Jesus calls himself in the gospel this morning the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus gives us his life, his power, his blessing, but he gives us that life through the channeling of the church, through the intermediary of the church. That life comes into us because of the Bishop, and without the Bishop that life is not given in abundance, and that’s why it’s not great to have a long period of sede vacante in a diocese.

The Bishop gives us the life of Christ, the life that comes from divine revelation. Here at the ambo, the divine Word of God is read. We receive his Word, his teaching, Catholic teaching fills our minds with the truth, and then the divine life of the Eucharist.

Without the Bishop, there is no Eucharist, because without the Bishop there’s no ordination of priests who give us the Eucharist. So the Bishop is the channel of life, and that is why we rejoice when we receive a new Bishop because the life of this local church continues. For me, in the name of Pope Francis, it gives me so much joy to be with you here on Catanduanes.

As I said last night, this is the happy island, and the island is especially happy today, isn’t it? Because the life of Christ continues here in the Diocese of Virac. We do all of these things under the watchful eyes of Our Lady, the one who brought that life into the world through the child in her womb, your beloved Ina, Our Lady. Let’s ask Our Lady to pray for your new Bishop, Bishop Occiano, and I ask you not only to beseech Mary to pray for your Bishop but also you yourselves pray for the Bishop, obey your Bishop, respect your Bishop, love your Bishop. He is the channel of God’s life here in the Diocese.May God bless you, and congratulations as the life of God continues in the Diocese of Virac.”

This message highlights the seamless transition of leadership in the Diocese of Virac, the continued spiritual guidance, and the importance of the Bishop’s role in the life of the Church.