Pope promotes Tagle as one of 11 highest ranking cardinals

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Pope promotes Tagle as one of 11 highest ranking cardinals
(UPDATED) Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle is now one of the 11 'close-in consultors' of Pope Francis, boosting his chances of becoming the next pontiff

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Pope Francis promoted the former archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, as one of the 11 highest ranking cardinals in the Vatican, the Catholic Church announced on Friday, May 1.

The Pope elevated Tagle to the rank of cardinal-bishop on April 14, the Vatican said.

Tagle is the first Filipino to be named cardinal-bishop, according to Father Greg Gaston, rector of the Pontificio Collegio Filippino, the home of Filipino priests in Rome.

Unknown to many, while cardinals are already a select group of 223 bishops assisting the Pope in running the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church, there are also rankings within the College of Cardinals.

Cardinal-bishop is the highest rank in the College of Cardinals, followed by cardinal-priest and cardinal-deacon.

Gaston explained that Tagle is now one of 11 cardinal-bishops all based in the Vatican. Three other cardinal-bishops belong to the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church, and are not based in Rome.

Gaston said these 11 cardinal-bishops help the Pope in coordinating with all of the world’s cardinals. Given their physical proximity to the pontiff, they can be described as “close-in consultors” of the Pope, said Gaston.

It is also from the ranks of cardinal-bishops that the Dean of the College of Cardinals is elected. 

The Dean is the “first among equals” in the College of Cardinals. The Dean “plays a key role in governing the Vatican” whenever a pope dies or resigns, and is in charge of calling other cardinals to Rome to elect a new pope, according to Vatican News. If the Dean is below the age of 80, he also presides over the papal elections.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was once cardinal-bishop and Dean of the College of Cardinals.

Next Pope?

This comes as Vatican watchers say Francis is grooming Tagle to become a potential successor as Pope. The news also coincides with preparations for the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines in 2021.

Before his promotion as cardinal-bishop, Tagle was already one of 9 prefects or members of the Pope’s “Cabinet” helping run the Vatican bureaucracy. He is prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in charge of spreading the Catholic faith around the world.

If Francis reforms of the Vatican bureaucracy push through, Tagle’s office is poised to become the second most important office in the Vatican, boosting his chances of becoming the next Pope. 

President Rodrigo Duterte falsely claimed on March 10 that Francis removed Tagle as Manila archbishop because the Pope “got angry” that the cardinal was meddling in politics. The Vatican has yet to appoint Tagle’s successor in the Archdiocese of Manila, which is now temporarily run by Duterte critic Bishop Broderick Pabillo.

Gaston said residents of Collegio Filippino, where Tagle resides and says Mass every Sunday via livestream in Rome, “are so honored” by Tagle’s new designation. 

“At the same time, it is a challenge for us all, especially Filipinos, to continue to pray for Cardinal Tagle,” Gaston said in a mix of English and Filipino.

In the context of the coronavirus crisis, Gaston added, “The naming of cardinal-bishops is a sign that the responsibility of the Church continues – coordinating, praying, and being missionaries around the world. And I hope we, too, wherever we are under lockdown, would continue praying and caring for each other.” – Rappler.com 

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior multimedia reporter covering religion for Rappler. He also teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.