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    Monday, June 18, 2018-2:01:14P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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CNMI bids farewell to first Bishop

“HE was truly prepared.”

Chalan Kanoa Diocese Bishop Ryan Jimenez said about the late Bishop Emeritus Tomas A. Camacho after the burial of CNMI’s spiritual leader and first bishop of the Chalan Kanoa Diocese on Tuesday at Mount Carmel Cathedral.

Even during the construction of the cathedral, Bishop Tomas already planned all of this, Bishop Jimenez said, referring to the crypt that was prepared inside the sanctuary.

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With a traditional placement on the altar, the late Bishop Emeritus Tomas A. Camacho is laid to rest beneath Mount Carmel Cathedral Tuesday afternoon after hundreds attended mass to say a final farewell to the islands’ first bishop.  Photo by Junhan TodiñoWith a traditional placement on the altar, the late Bishop Emeritus Tomas A. Camacho is laid to rest beneath Mount Carmel Cathedral Tuesday afternoon after hundreds attended mass to say a final farewell to the islands’ first bishop. Photo by Junhan Todiño

“I only got to know of it when he gave me his last will and testament on February 2014. He had a specific wish where he would be buried because in the law of the church, a bishop when he dies, he should be buried in the sanctuary,” Bishop Jimenez said.

He said Bishop Tomas specifically pointed to the spot of the crypt.

In 2016, Bishop Tomas mentioned again about his burial site inside the cathedral.

“So at that time, there was carpet here so we opened it because he has even in his will who exactly he wanted to help to open it, so we did just that to make sure,” Bishop Jimenez said, adding that those people whom Bishop Tomas had instructed to prepare for his burial where actually on “stand by.”

“It’s only then I realized the importance of being prepared,” he said.

The burial, although it was the first time to do inside the sanctuary, it was not difficult because Bishop   Tomas has already prepared it, Bishop Jimenez said.

He said the burial of Bishop Tomas inside the sanctuary is symbolic because in the Catholic faith, the Eucharist is where they stand united with the one who has passed away through prayers.

The funeral service started with a burial mass at 8 a.m. after the arrival of the bishop’s body from the Commonwealth Health Center.

It was attended by Church officials from Guam led by Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes and other church leaders Msgr. Brigido Arryo, Msgr. David IA Quitugua, Msgr. James Benavente, Fr. Michael Crisostomo, Fr. Melchior Camina, Fr. Joel Delos Reyes and all of the church administrators and parish priests from the 13 parishes in the CNMI.

CNMI government officials and dignitaries led by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang also joined to mourn and pay tribute to Bishop Tomas.

In an interview, Torres expressed his deepest sorrow to the passing away of Bishop Tomas and mourned with the family and the community.

He said he truly admires the leadership of Bishop Tomas for establishing a “strong foundation” of the Catholic Church in the CNMI.

On behalf of the family, Jesse Benavente Aldan, Bishop Tomas’ nephew, acknowledged and recognized all the support of friends, parishioners, community members and church leaders for their support.

Aldan thanked the community who came as “one family” for their support and prayers, and for attending the nightly mass since March 5.

Erin Angela Camacho, Bishop Camacho’s niece, in a separate interview, said their family is “very grateful” for the show of support during this time.

“We had truly felt their comfort and the love from them and it has just been a nice kind of show back of support for the community that he [Bishop Camacho] served through the years,” she said.

All of the family members, including Roman Camacho, the only sibling who resides abroad was able to come with his wife Beverly, she added.

Eric Angela Camacho said her uncle Bishop Tomas played an important role in the community as a spiritual leader.

“He [Bishop Tomas] took that role as an uncle and spiritual leader throughout my years,” she said, adding her uncle would always greet her during her birthdays.

“I still have my last text from him from my last birthday,” she said.

Bishop Jimenez said it was Bishop Tomas’s wish that church leaders and the family will work together during the funeral services.

“We are grateful to God for the gift of Bishop Tomas as a first bishop of the diocese,” he said.

Bishop Tomas, 84, was born on Sept. 18, 1933. At the age of 27, he was ordained priest on June 14, 1961.

He was ordained bishop in 1984 where he served at the Chalan Kanoa Diocese until 2010.

It was Pope John Paul II that ordained him as the first bishop on Nov. 8, 1984.

Bishop Jimenez said he wouldn’t be at the diocese without Bishop Tomas who accepted him.

“I am very grateful for that, he ordained me as a priest and he was one of the consecrators in my ordination as a bishop in 2016,” he said.

Bishop Jimenez said he had “gift of time where it was just the two of us,” a day prior to Bishop Camacho passing away at the hospital.

“I asked him in the end for him to impart his blessings to me as a successor, it was a very profound prayer that only two of us were in the room so I felt at peace that we have that quality time and it was truly a gift,” he said.

Bishop Jimenez said he is hoping the Bishop Tomas’s legacy at the diocese would continue to flourish in all the parishes.

“That’s what he wanted for us to be, one church and one people,” he said.