The Church in the Philippines has another reason to rejoice.
After the canonization of Saint Pedro Calungsod, the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI in his weekly General Audience came as a surprise when he revealed that there will be six new Cardinals for the Church, all of whom are not from Europe.
One of the six is Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, lovingly called “Chito” by those who have worked with him.
While we see that this is a gift for the Philippine Church at large, Tagle’s appointment as Cardinal came sooner than expected.
Manila Archbishop-Emeritus Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales was given the red hat in 2006, three years after his election as archbishop. Cebu Archbishop-Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal received his in 1985, two years after he was installed.
Tagle, only installed as Manila archbishop in December of last year, became cardinal in less than 12 months.
The good archbishop’s affiliation with Benedict is very apparent. When the former received his pallium, that thin garment with six crosses worn by metropolitan archbishops in Masses within their archdioceses, the two spoke for the longest time. My friends from the Ave Maria online community also noticed this as we were running our coverage for the reception of the pallium months ago.
Tagle, still a priest by then, and the erstwhile-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger worked together in the International Theological Commission, that body of the world’s brightest theologians who meet a week in a year to discuss the most pressing questions regarding the Catholic faith.
I will not be surprised though if he will be named to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the rod of Catholic doctrine in the Vatican, and with Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas named to Manila.
Granting that Tagle has been named Cardinal, fears have sparked regarding the Pope’s health. This appointment of new cardinals is the second this year. Last February, four Italians have been raised to the cardinalate, raising their number of cardinal-electors to 30. With this development, how wide are Tagle’s chances in ascending to the See of Peter in the event of a conclave?
Nothing is impossible. In fact, John Allen, a journalist for the US-based National Catholic Reporter, said that Tagle may be a papabile. Allen goes on to cite instances in Tagle’s life as bishop of Imus, where he rode the bus to work and took the pedicab to celebrate Mass for a barrio having its fiesta.
He might be another silent contender in the papacy (Jaime Cardinal Sin was also seen as a Papal contender due to his role in the 1986 Edsa Revolution). We’ve already seen John Paul II as pope from 1978-2005. No one ever expected him to be elected; yet, the Holy Spirit rained down on the Cardinals and inspired them to choose the now-beatified pope.
In this Year of Faith, while we still hover over these questions in the days to come, we could not but say “Dominus est.” It is the Lord.