Celebrate His Life and Ministry, remember His Contribution

OM’s Message to the Church
On the 43rd Death Anniversary of past Obispo Maximo
Bishop Santiago Fonacier

December 8, 2020

In the Iglesia Filipina Independiente

  1. Today, December 8, is an important date in our calendar as Church. But it is not because several of our churches and congregations nationwide and overseas are celebrating a Marian Feast; it is because we mark today the 43rd Death Anniversary of the past Obispo Maximo of the Church, Bishop Santiago Fonacier. He died on December 8, 1977 at the age of 92 years old. Despite the prominence of such a date, we oftentimes however miss the importance of the day probably because of the issues surrounding his incumbency and their resulting controversies. But it cannot be denied that Bp. Santiago Fonacier was the second Obispo Maximo of the Church as he succeeded Bp. Gregorio Aglipay, upon his death, in 1940. His incumbency ran through the difficult, turbulent years of World War II and ended on January 22, 1946.
  2. Bishop Santiago Fonacier was actually no ordinary person. He was one of the key followers of Bp. Gregorio Aglipay from the Ilocos region as he was strongly influenced by the great life of the revolutionary priest who was a popular figure in the region. He was twenty-five years younger than Bp. Gregorio Aglipay as Bp. Santiago Fonacier was born on May 21, 1885 in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. He had his elementary education in his town while his secondary education was spent in a local high school accredited by the University of Santo Tomas and the Liceo de Manila. He studied for the priesthood and was ordained priest in 1902. He had great passion towards journalism that after two years from his ordination, he started to edit Spanish periodicals into Ilocano, among them La Lucha that survived until 1941. He later on became a reporter for the two prominent newspapers at that time, La Democracia and El Grito del Pueblo, while doing the Ilocano translations for Rizal’s two popular novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.
  3. Starting in 1912, Fonacier found himself largely involved in politics as he was elected to the first Philippine Assembly to represent the first district of Ilocos Norte and serving his four-year term in full. In 1919 election, he ran and won as senator representing the first senatorial district composed of the Provinces of Abra, Batanes, Cagayan Valley, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, and Isabela. Aside from being an assemblyman and senator, he also served in the government in his capacity as a member of the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines, as part of the Philippine Independence Mission to the United States, as member of the Institute of National Textbook Board, and as a Military Chaplain.
  4. To honor this great person and recognize his contributions to Philippine history and culture, in May 1985, the National Historical Institute led the Centennial Celebration of his birthday by placing a historical marker in his ancestral home where he was born and by having his profile picture featured for the Commemorative Stamp issued by the National Post Office.
  5. We mark his death anniversary today as Church grateful for his leadership in a time where the IFI was confronting difficult and turbulent years due to World War II. We mark this day with solemnity through the Daily Offices which the Obispado Maximo appropriated to pray for his eternal rest in the gracious care of our God. We are supposed to have a Memorial Service for him at the Cathedral Church in Laoag City with the IFI Bishop of Laoag and his clergy leading, but the city, unfortunately, was recently placed under lockdown and public worship would not be possible. We mark this day with utmost humility and apologetic hearts for being remiss, for many years now, in giving due accord, honor and recognition to the past Obispo Maximo, Bp. Santiago Fonacier, being the second to the line of succession from the prodigious Bp. Gregorio Aglipay. We mark this day as fresh start to celebrate his place in the history of the IFI as among its heads, and to remember his contribution to IFI’s life and work in its formative years. But most, we mark this day with sincere intention to touch base, reconnect with history, and open the doors of the IFI as a welcoming Church for all, especially for those who share with us in taking pride of and in living out the ideals, aspirations, and struggles of Bp. Gregorio Aglipay for national independence, identity, and integrity as pushed by the 1896 Philippine Revolution, and for the reign of justice, peace and freedom in our land under the loving, life-giving and liberating God in Jesus our Lord.
  6. We recall that when we in the IFI celebrated our First Centenary in 2002, we embarked the Centennial Decade Celebration, from 1992-2001, to prepare the whole Church for the meaningful Centenary Celebration and to consolidate ourselves for common mind and practice to pursue the Decade Agenda that included the plan to hold dialogues with other “Aglipayan groups.” We need to revisit this particular agenda, and bring alive our declaration in the Statement on Mission approved in October 23, 1976 that says:
    In the midst of sinful humanity, she is called and sent by God to be agent of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-19). God first reconciled her to Him, in his body of flesh an death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, “to make expiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17).
    Our reconciliation with those who are separated from us is based on the fact that God in Christ first reconciled us to Himself. It is our sorrow that many of our people have left the IFI, and it is with humility and repentance that we shall seek reconciliation of all.
  7. Today, as we mark the 43rd Death Anniversary of the past Obispo Maximo, Bp. Santiago Fonacier, let us give it with distinction to seek and extend forgiveness and understanding, to offer and reach-out for love and reconciliation, and to ask and invoke God’s mercy and pardon. Today, we as IFI thank God for the life and ministry of Santiago, and pray that he may rest in peace and rise up in glory.


Obispo Maximo
8 December 2020
Manila, Philippines

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