Catholic Church

Cardinal Tagle surprises Filipinos, says Mass after COVID-19 recovery

Paterno Esmaquel II

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Cardinal Tagle surprises Filipinos, says Mass after COVID-19 recovery

After recovering from COVID-19, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle officiates his first regular mass at The Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Intramuros, Manila on Sunday, October 4, 2020. Tagle recovered from COVID-19 within two weeks after testing positive upon arrival in Manila from Rome.

Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Now a top Vatican official, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle echoes a strong message from Pope Francis: 'Stop the culture of throwing away'

Eight months after he last said Mass in his old cathedral, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle reached out to his former secretary, Father Reginald Malicdem, on Saturday evening, October 3.

Malicdem told Rappler that Tagle, who is visiting the Philippines, asked if he could say Mass at the Manila Cathedral, seat of the Manila archbishop. Malicdem, rector or caretaker of the cathedral, of course said yes.

Wearing a surgical mask, the former Manila archbishop surprised the crowd at the Manila Cathedral on Sunday, October 4, as he led the 8 am Sunday Mass after recovering from COVID-19.

Flanked by Malicdem and Manila Cathedral vice rector Father Kali Llamado, Tagle sat in a wooden chair behind the altar table, not the throne-like seat made of concrete on the side of the altar.

This concrete seat, called the cathedra, is reserved for the archbishop – and has been bare for the past 8 months in a state called sede vacante (“the seat being vacant”), as the Pope has not selected Tagle’s successor. (The screening process requires a papal nuncio or Vatican ambassador, who had just been appointed for the Philippines – Archbishop Charles John Brown.)

Cardinal Tagle
‘SEDE VACANTE.’ While he says Mass in his old cathedral, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle occupies a wooden seat and not the ‘cathedra,’ the seat of the archbishop, which remains vacant after 8 months.
Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

In his homily on Sunday, Tagle echoed Pope Francis and said Catholics should “stop the culture of throwing away.” True to his style of preaching, Tagle criticized and also drew lessons from everyday practices, such as throwing away out-of-fashion but still useful clothes.

“During this moment of crisis, this pandemic, when resources are scarce, when some people have even lost jobs, we are being asked to review our lifestyles, our priorities,” Tagle said. “Let us appreciate what we have. And if what we have is more than what we need, share with others. The gift that we have received should be given as a gift, and not be wasted.”

Tagle, 63, is now based in the Vatican as one of the Catholic Church’s top officials. He is in the Philippines to visit his parents in Cavite, who are both in their 90s, but he tested positive for COVID-19 upon his arrival on September 10, making a low-profile visit a headline-grabber worldwide.

“Lahat po tayo nagulat sa pagdiriwang natin ng Banal na Misa ngayong umagang ito, na pinamunuan ng ating minamahal na si Cardinal Chito Tagle,” said Malicdem in his remarks toward the end of the Mass. (All of us were surprised at our celebration of the Holy Mass this morning, which was led by our beloved Cardinal Chito Tagle.)

Gesturing to the crowd in the cathedral, Malicdem added, “Baka nagtataka sila kasi naka-mask po, siguro ‘yung iba inaaninag pa ng iba kung sino talaga ‘yung nagmimisa. Si Cardinal po na dumalaw sa atin ngayong araw na ito.” (Perhaps they’re wondering, because he’s wearing a mask, the others might be trying to figure out who is saying Mass. It’s the Cardinal who visited us today.)

“Thanks to all of you especially for your prayers and your expressions of concern and support,” Tagle responded.

A former bishop of Imus and graduate of Ateneo de Manila University, Tagle is now prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which is touted to become the second most important office in the Vatican. He now also holds the rank of cardinal-bishop, making him one of the 11 highest ranking cardinals in the Vatican. –

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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