Pope Francis bypasses Cebu, names first Filipino cardinal from Capiz

After a long wait, Pope Francis on Sunday, October 25, named a new cardinal from the Visayas region of the Philippines – not from Cebu as expected by church watchers, but for the first time from Capiz.

In a surprise announcement made in Italian, the Pope said Jose Advincula, archbishop of Capiz, is set to join a new set of 13 cardinals in the Catholic Church. Breaking more barriers, Francis also named the first African-American cardinal – Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington.

Born in Dumalag, Capiz, on March 30, 1952, Advincula was former bishop of San Carlos in Negros Occidental. He attended the Saint Pius X Seminary in Lawaan, Roxas City, and later studied theology at the University of Santo Tomas, a pontifical university in Manila.

His new title is set to be formalized in a gathering of cardinals, called a consistory, on November 28.

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.  (A traditional description for a cardinal is "prince of the Church," although this name is less used nowadays as Francis advocates simplicity.)

Without yet including Advincula and the 12 other nominees, there are only 219 cardinals in the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church. Of this number, only 122 can elect the Pope’s successor.

Advincula, 68, is set to become the Philippines' only cardinal-elector in the next papal election or conclave aside from former Manila archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, 63, who is now a top official at the Vatican.

Pope of the Peripheries

While no church rule mandates this, Filipino cardinals have often come from Manila and Cebu, bastions of the faith that vie for prominence in predominantly Catholic Philippines. By tradition, there has usually been one cardinal from Manila and another from Cebu at any given time.

After the retirement and more so after the death of Cebu's Cardinal Ricardo Vidal in October 2017, church watchers have in fact expected Francis to name Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma as cardinal.

The first Pope from Latin America, however, has pushed for more attention to the world's "peripheries" – as seen even in his choice of top associates. The creation of cardinals, especially under the first Jesuit pope, demonstrates the Pope's priorities in the Catholic Church.

By slowly changing the profile of the College of Cardinals, Francis is also exercising the only kind of influence he is allowed to wield in the election of a successor who could continue his reforms.

The last Filipino cardinal he named, Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, was the first from Mindanao.

With Advincula as cardinal starting November 28, the Philippines would have 4 cardinals, including two non-electors due to their age: 81-year-old Quevedo and Tagle's predecessor, 88-year-old Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. 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.

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