Cardinal Tagle hits materialism, fake news on Simbang Gabi

Paterno Esmaquel II
Cardinal Tagle hits materialism, fake news on Simbang Gabi

Jesus needs real witnesses, not fake news makers, says Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle

MANILA, Philippines – Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle denounced materialism and fake news as he led the first day of the Philippines’ traditional Simbang Gabi (Night Masses) on Monday, December 16, in preparation for Christmas.

“Ngayong Pasko, si Hesus ba ang pinananabikan ng iba? Mukhang hindi naman eh. Ang pinananabikan, bonus. ‘Pag may bonus, Pasko, kahit walang Hesus,” Tagle said.

(This Christmas, is Jesus the one others long for? It doesn’t seem that way. It seems they’re just longing for bonuses. For them if there’s a bonus, it’s Christmas, even if there’s no Jesus.)

He also criticized those who avoid putting the crib of Jesus in their Christmas decor.

“Ano’ng mayroon? Kahon na may ribbon!” Tagle said, raising his voice. “Bakit, ang isinilang ba ni Maria ay kahon?!”

(What do they have? A box with a ribbon! Why, did Mary give birth to a box?!)

The Simbang Gabi is the Filipino tradition of attending Mass at dawn, or in the evening, for 9 consecutive days before Christmas. Tagle led the Simbang Gabi at the Manila Cathedral at 4:30 am on Monday.

In his homily on Monday, the cardinal also warned against fake news, at a time when opposing political camps in the Philippines spread fake news to discredit each other. Tagle himself has been a victim of fake news.

“Huwag kayong maging saksi ng kabulaanan, kasinungalingan, na ang tawag ay fake news (Don’t be a witness of falsehood, lies, called fake news),” he said, noting that Jesus was killed with the help of false witnesses.

What the world needs, according to Tagle, is real witnessing to Jesus. “Kailangan ni Hesus ng mga magpapatotoo sa kanya, lalo na sa mga taong ayaw maniwala kay Hesus, sa mga taong binabatikos si Hesus, sa mga taong minamaliit si Hesus, sa mga taong pinalitan na si Hesus.”

(Jesus needs people who will witness to him, especially before those who refuse to believe in Jesus, people who criticize Jesus, people who belittle Jesus, people who have replaced Jesus.)

Tagle reminded Filipino Catholics about the meaning of Simbang Gabi – 9 evenings symbolizing the 9 months when Mary carried Jesus in her womb.

“Sa siyam na Simbang Gabi, parang sinasamahan natin si Maria nang siyam na buwan – bawat araw, isang buwan ng pagbubuntis ni Maria. At tayo naman, sinasamahan natin siya, natututo tayo kay Maria papa’no taglayin si Hesus sa ating buhay,” he said.

(Through the 9 Simbang Gabi Masses, it’s like we’re accompanying Mary for 9 months – one day for every month that Mary bore Jesus. And as we accompany her, we learn from Mary how to bear Jesus in our lives.)

Tagle is expected to soon vacate his position as Manila archbishop after Pope Francis appointed him as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Upcoming reforms, if approved, could make this the second most powerful office in the Vatican bureaucracy, boosting Tagle’s chances of being elected to succeed Francis.

Aside from promoting Tagle, Francis on Sunday, December 15, showed another sign of affirmation for the Philippine Catholic Church as he led the Simbang Gabi for the first time in Vatican City. The Pope on Sunday had marching orders for Filipino Catholics: “Continue to be smugglers of the faith.” –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at