Cardinal Tagle hailed as ‘Asian Francis’

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Cardinal Tagle also 'turned a lot of hits' in the conclave that elected Pope Francis, says veteran Vatican analyst John Allen Jr

LIKE POPE FRANCIS. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle is described as a missionary pastor like then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. File photo by Tiziana Fabi/AFP

TAGAYTAY CITY, Philippines – Exactly a year ago on Thursday, March 13, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle didn’t emerge as a runner-up in the conclave that elected Pope Francis, a leading Vatican analyst said.

“However Cardinal Tagle turned a lot of hits in the conclave,” senior Vatican correspondent John Allen Jr told Filipino reporters on Wednesday, March 12.

In a media conference at the Divine Word Seminary, Allen quoted one of his sources as saying Tagle “could make a great Pope, but not quite yet.” Tagle is “just a little bit too young,” his source added.

Still, Allen said he considers Tagle the “Asian Francis.”

He explained Tagle, described as a front-runner in the previous conclave, shares the Pope’s characteristics. These traits include having worked in “pastoral trenches, not sitting behind the desk,” and keeping a “missionary vision” for the Catholic Church.

The 56-year-old Tagle, after all, has focused on pastoral care in his 12 years as bishop. (READ: When a girl tells Cardinal Tagle: You’re fake!)

Like Francis, he has also appealed for mercy as well as charity among Catholics. (READ: Don’t be hypocrites, Tagle tells Catholics on Ash Wednesday)

Given these characteristics, Tagle “might get serious consideration” as pope in “some future scenario,” Allen said.

Tagle told Rappler in jest, “That’s an opinion that I take as a joke.”

Allen visited Tagaytay City to speak at the 50th anniversary of the Divine Word Seminary here. 

A Vatican analyst for CNN, Allen joined the Boston Globe as associate editor in February. He worked as correspondent for 16 years at the National Catholic Reporter, a leading 50-year-old news group that specializes in Catholic news. 

Pope’s ‘confidence’ in Tagle

In his meeting with reporters, Allen also said Tagle has received the Pope’s “vote of confidence.” (Watch more in the video below)

He saw this when Francis named Tagle as one of the 3 presidents of one of the Pope’s landmark events, the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Pastoral Challenges of the Family in October. (READ: Tagle, 2 others to lead historic Vatican meeting)

A synod is an assembly of bishops that helps the Pope “in the governing of the universal Church by rendering their counsel,” the Vatican said.

In a synod, a president-delegate “presides over the assembly in the name and by the authority” of the Pope, according to the Synodal Information published by the Vatican.

His functions include the following: 

  • “to guide the workings of the Synod according to the faculties entrusted to him in the letter of delegation, following the agenda and observing the procedural norms set down in this Ordo;

  • “to assign to certain Members, when deemed opportune, particular tasks, so that the Assembly might better proceed with its work;

  • “to sign the Acts of the Assembly. If there are several President-Delegates, all sign the Acts concluding the Assembly.”

“Make no mistake,” Allen explained. “This synod is not just another item in the checklist of things this Pope has to do. We believe this is profoundly important. He has spent an enormous amount of time tinkering with the mechanics of the synod.”

He said this is likely one of the Pope’s 3 most important projects for 2013.

This synod is so important for Francis, Allen said, that he has done something that popes don’t usually do. “Not once but twice,” he said, Francis “picked up his briefcase” and “walked out of the Vatican” to join the synod’s preparatory meetings across the road. 

He said this “shows you how personally invested he is in this.”

“The fact that he would impart, entrust the success of this enterprise to Tagle,” Allen said, “is an obvious sort of vote of confidence from the Pope.” –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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