Identities of the abductors are still unknown
MANILA, Philippines - When the cardinals will finally emerge from the conclave to elect the new Pope, possibly in March, it won’t be Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.
Those hoping, and perhaps praying, that Tagle, 55, will succeed the ailing Pope Benedict XVI, are expecting a miracle that is unlikely to happen.
Tagle’s predecessor—retired Manila Archbishop Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales—is not optimistic Tagle will be the next Vicar of Christ—at least not yet. His view is shared by two other retired prelates, former Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi and former Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz.
While he may be charismatic and a first-rate inspirational speaker and theologian, Tagle’s obvious handicap is that he is still young to be in the running as the next Pope, the 3 retired prelates agreed. This, despite the fact that Pope John Paul II was only 58 when he was elected Pope in 1978.
“He’s still very, very young,” Rosales said of Tagle. “He only became a Cardinal last November.”
Cruz and Legaspi agreed that Tagle’s age, which is young by Church standards as Christ’s next Vicar, will work against him. “It is not realistic. You need a miracle for him to be elected Pope,” Cruz said. “It would be difficult for him to be elected,” Legaspi said.
Tagle has been floated as one of the papabili, or those regarded as frontrunners for the papacy, following the resignation of Pope Benedict. The wire news agency, Reuters, included him in the Top 10 list of those who could be pope.
“Tagle has the charisma often compared to that of the late Pope John Paul. He is also close to Pope Benedict after working with him at the International Theological Commission. While he has many fans, he only became a cardinal in 2012 and conclaves are wary of young candidates,” Reuters said.
In an announcement that stunned the world, Pope Benedict, 85, cited his “advanced age” as reason for his resignation from the papacy. He was elected Pope in 2005. "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
Politics in the Church
Apart from Tagle’s age, the retired prelates also pointed out that the selection of the next Pope is also influenced by Church politics—not entirely different from secular elections where voters’ choices are determined by human factor.
While it is the belief that the Holy Spirit guides the cardinals in the papal election, “the Holy Spirit works through people,” Legaspi, one of the foremost theologians in the country, said.
“In the Church there is also politics. While the election of the new pope is a religious activity, the way it is conducted has also a human dimension,” he added.
Rosales agreed, saying the Church “is also a human organization” that is prone to human influence.
Legaspi, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said those in the running as the next Pope have their own factions “or groups that support them.”
Cruz, also former president of the CBCP, said that while cardinals are believed to be guided by the Holy Spirit during the conclave, “the truth is the Holy Spirit respects human reason.”
He said that “by force of reason, the cardinals would be voting for the papabile they know. And these are the experienced ones and who are up to the job.”
Tagle is just one of the 10 Cardinals from Asia, out of the 116 eligible cardinals worldwide to vote, who will participate in the conclave, which is dominated by European cardinals.
Tagle was bishop of Imus (Cavite) before he was appointed by the Vatican to succeed Rosales as Manila Archbishop. He is well-respected and a much sought inspirational and resource speaker, even on CBCP plenary.
Not popular locally
While he may be popular among Vatican watchers, Tagle however has his own critics. In the diocese of Imus, we learned that many priests there heaved a sigh of relief when he was appointed to the prime post of Manila.
Local church observers said Tagle is a “poor administrator and that many Cavite priests do not like him.”
One of them is lay leader and former Malacañang Protocol Adviser Daniel Victoria who said Tagle has been an absentee Imus bishop as well as Manila Cardinal. “He is holy, he is honest, he is not corrupt, but he is a poor administrator.”
Victoria said Tagle is the Filipino equivalent of American Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who like the Tagle, was known for his preaching in mass media.
“Tagle is a good speaker. He inspires people, but when it comes down to managerial work, I give him a failing grade. “
Victoria added, “If he cannot run the Imus diocese well, and the Archdiocese of Manila, how can he run the entire universal Church?”
If by some miracle Tagle is named the next Pope, Victoria said the supposed prediction of St Malachy, “that the end of the Church is near with the election of the last Pope would be ‘providential.’”
It would conform with the prophecy that the Church is about to end,” he added.
The last Asian cardinal to have the chance to become Pope was the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, who reportedly got 6 votes in the first voting.
The 3 prelates said that only a miracle can make Tagle come out as the next Pope in the closed-door conclave.
Legaspi said that under the Canon Law – the universal Church law – any baptized male Catholic, even an ordinary lay person, can technically become a pope. “Any male Catholic is qualified under Canon law. You do not have to be a bishop, or a cardinal,” he explained.
But unlike in national or local elections, campaigning is not allowed. “That leaves you with only a cardinal as the candidate,” he said. – Rappler.com