Catholic Church

‘Maybe an error’: How Pope Francis surprised the 1st cardinal from Capiz

Paterno Esmaquel II
‘Maybe an error’: How Pope Francis surprised the 1st cardinal from Capiz
Pope Francis brings the Catholic Church farther away from traditional centers of power such as Manila and Cebu, and closer to previously unnoticed areas of mission

He thought the Vatican just got the names wrong.

Capiz Archbishop Jose Advincula Jr, 68, was with two priests – and away from his cellphone – when Pope Francis read his name along with 12 others from the window of the papal apartments at the Vatican. 

The Pope on Sunday, October 25, named Advincula the first cardinal from Capiz – and the first from the Visayas after 35 years, surprising church watchers who had expected it to be Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, successor of the late Cardinal Ricardo Vidal.

Before this, the low-profile Advincula had not heard any plan, not even small talk, that Francis intended to make him a cardinal. He found it weird because other bishops’ appointments often become the talk of the town before they actually happen.

“That is why I was so surprised, even the priests who were with me were very surprised as well. And my first reaction was, maybe they had an error in communication, maybe because there are a lot of bishops here in Panay, there are 3 bishops here with ‘Jose’ as their first name, maybe they got the wrong surname,” Advincula said on Monday, October 26.

Then, the text messages and social media posts came flooding in. “My initial reaction is the fear of that responsibility. If there is that feeling of joy, it’s very small because my feelings focused on the responsibility that is given to me together with this appointment,” he said.

“Maybe this is one way of the Pope to acknowledge the faith of the people of the archdiocese. He may also have seen in different ways the efforts of the priests here in our archdiocese. They are working hard to plant the seeds of faith to the people in this part of the church in the world,” said the cardinal-elect in an interview with local church media on Monday.

Why it matters

“Cardinal” is the highest title a Catholic bishop can have, next to “pope.” Traditionally called “princes of the Church” (though it is a name less used nowadays as Francis favors simplicity), cardinals serve as advisers of the Pope and, if they have not reached the mandatory retirement age of 80, also get to elect his successor.  

Without yet including Advincula and 12 others, there are only 219 cardinals in the 1.2-billion-strong Catholic Church. Of this number, only 122 can join a papal election called a conclave.

When he formally receives his new title on November 28, Advincula becomes only the 9th Filipino cardinal in history – and also the only Filipino prelate, aside from Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, eligible to elect the next pope. Only cardinals below the age of 80 can join a conclave, and two of the 4 living Filipino cardinals are octogenarians – Gaudencio Rosales and Orlando Quevedo

Advincula’s nomination is significant because it strengthens the Pope’s move toward the “peripheries” of the Catholic Church – bringing it farther away from traditional centers of power, such as Manila and Cebu, and closer to previously unnoticed areas of mission like Capiz. 

The first Filipino cardinal named by Francis – Quevedo of Cotabato, who became cardinal in 2014 – was also the first from Mindanao.

The archbishop of Capiz was only the second Filipino cardinal named by the first pope from Latin America. –

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