The contributions of the late Bacolod Bishop Antonio Fortich to the spiritual welfare and renewal of the people of Negros Occidental were remembered at a mass held at the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod City on his 99th birthday Saturday.
Msgr. Felix Pasquin, who celebrated the mass, said it was Fortich who gave the people of Negros the hope and the strength to continue the journey of the church until today.
He was the bishop appointed in Bacolod right after the conclusion of the Second Vatican council in 1967 that brought an important impact on Church life, that was renewal, Pasquin said.
The renewal also changed the definition of the Church and other aspects of Christian life where Fortich, in his entire ministry, fed the people of the Diocese of Bacolod with the teachings of the Lord, he said.
The new definition of “Church” is people of God, and the bishop worked on the renewal of the relationship of the people with God, Pasquin also said.
He recalled that Fortich initiated projects for the welfare of the people and among them were the rural congress, the pastoral letter he wrote for the protection of small workers in the haciendas, and his organization of the Dacongcogon Sugar Mill in southern Negros for the benefit of small farmers.
Fortich was the recipient of the 1973 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, and he was the only bishop in Asia nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
He was given dotorate degrees, honoris causa, by the University of Negros Occidental Recoletos, University of St. La Salle-Bacolod and Manila, Ateneo de Manila Univeristy, and the Notre Dame University in Baguio.
During the time of crises when people were tired and getting hopeless, Pasquin said Fortich gave hope to the people of Bacolod and Negros Occidental and all his works and words were dedicated to the Lord.
“Bishop Fortich fed us with the Lord and Lord is the food of our life,” Pasquin added. *LTG