NAGA CITY – Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi, the longest -running top prelate of the Archdiocese of Caceres, is set to retire on Nov. 25, his 75th birthday.
Legaspi was installed Caceres archbishop in 1984. He replaced then Archbishop Teopisto Alberto.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Archbishop Legaspi will turn over his resignation letter to Pope Benedict XVI on Nov. 25 when he turns 75, the mandatory retirement age for Catholic prelates.
Based on Code of Canon Law, bishops must tender their resignation on their 75th birthday. But CBCP explained that even if the only Bicol archbishop has submitted his letter to the Vatican, he would continue to govern his archdiocese until a replacement has been chosen by the Pope.
Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, now 78, has tendered his resignation August 2007 but continue to serve his diocese pending the appointment of his successor.
The Archdiocese of Caceres which is based in this city, known in the Spanish times as Nueva Caceres, is the Metropolitan See of the Bicol region.
Established on Aug. 14, 1595 by Pope Clement V under the Bull of Erection of the See of Caceres, it began as one of the only three original bishoprics in the entire Philippine archipelago, other than Manila, the latter being elevated early on as an archdiocese. The two other bishoprics were established in Nueva Segovia in Cagayan and the bishoprics of the Santissimo Nombre de Jesus in Cebu.
Born in Meycauayan, Bulacan on Nov. 25, 1935, Monsignor Legaspi was the third of ten living children of the late Enrique Relente Legaspi and Luisa Moraga Zamora. He entered the Dominican Order in 1952; studied philosophy at the Saint Albert Priory, HongKong, 1955 and was ordained priest on Dec. 17, 1960 in Manila.
In 1961, he graduated from the Faculty of Sacred Heart Theology of the University of Santo Tomas with a Licentiate in Sacred Theology, Magna Cum Laude and the degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology, Magna Cum Laude, in 1962. He was conferred with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 1974.
He was appointed first Filipino rector of the University of Santo Tomas Central Seminary; the first Vicar, Philippine Dominican Province; and the first Filipino rector of the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas.
On June 30, 1977, Legaspi was elected titular bishop of Elefantaria in Mauritania and auxiliary bishop of Manila. Soon he was ordained bishop on Aug. 8, 1977.
He was appointed Archbishop of Caceres on October 20, 1983, although his formal installation took place on January 18, 1984 during the solemn ceremonies held at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. It was during that that time that the Marcos dictatorship was nearing its end following the assassination the previous year of Ninoy Aquino.
A known conservative, Monsignor Legaspi was elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in July 1986 and re-elected for a second term in July 1989.