Manila Archbishop not among new cardinals

Paterno Esmaquel II
The new appointees will begin their assignments in February when the Pope holds an assembly of cardinals

MANILA, Philippines – Contrary to predictions, Pope Benedict XVI did not include newly-installed Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle in the list of soon-to-be cardinals that the Pope revealed on Friday, Jan 6, 2012.

Benedict XVI announced the names of the 22 new cardinals after his Mass for the Feast of the Epiphany, more popularly known in the Philippines as the feast of the Three Kings, held in Vatican City.

The appointed prelates will begin their assignments once the Pope holds an assembly of cardinals, called a consistory, in February.

Tagle’s appointment as Manila archbishop had raised hopes that he will become the fourth living cardinal from the Philippines, following in the footsteps of his predecessor Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales.

ARCHBISHOP TAGLE. Not named cardinal for now. Newsbreak photo

“The big news from the Philippines has been the October 13 appointment of Luis Antonio Tagle as the new Archbishop of Manila, putting him in line to become a cardinal the next time Benedict XVI hosts a consistory,” wrote CNN senior Vatican analyst John Allen Jr days after Tagle’s appointment.

In the Catholic Church, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, cardinals counsel the Pope, aid him in the government of the Church, and assist him in certain liturgical services. Those who are under the age of 80 can also elect the next Pope in case the current one dies or resigns.

He is said to be close to the Pope, having worked with him when the latter was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Pope Benedict mentored him when he was finishing his doctoral thesis in sacred theology, according to sources privy to this information.

Tagle was bishop of the Imus diocese of Cavite for nine years before his appointment as Manila Archbishop.

Greater influence

Even without the cardinals’ symbolic red hat, however, Tagle wields great influence as Archbishop of Manila, the Philippines’ most influential and richest archdiocese.

In terms of controversial issues such as the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, the 54-year-old prelate is expected to uphold the traditional positions of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). 

Tagle, in the first place, is the CBCP’s chief doctrinal guardian as head of its Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith.

When Tagle was installed as archbishop last December, Newsbreak reported that Tagle is also closely associated with the Cojuangcos and the Lopas, who are the President’s relatives.

Tagle “is expected to exercise moral suasion on the President over the RH Bill,” the Newsbreak story said.

RH Bill advocates like Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, however, have said that Tagle’s kind-hearted demeanor will spell the difference in the RH Bill debates, for instance. In an interview, Baraquel said Tagle has never labeled RH bill advocates like her as devils or terrorists.

“I think the thing about him that will most make a difference, for the better, in this RH debate, is ‘yung personal disposition niya at saka ‘yung kondukta niya sa debate, ’cause that’s all we ask in any battle – a fair and honorable engagement,” she said. – Rappler.com

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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.