Humble, low-key Tagle is Manila’s 32nd archbishop

Natashya Gutierrez

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Charismatic and intelligent, Tagle is considered conservative and traditional, and is expected to lead the Church's campaign against the government's controversial thrust for the Reproductive Health Bill

Archbishop Tagle during his installment at Manila Cathedral

MANILA, Philippines – He dreamt of becoming a physician, but had a change of heart in his last year in high school.

He decided then, he wanted to be a priest.

He was ordained at 25 years old, and 29 years later, on a sunny, scorching Monday morning, he finds himself in the most influential position of the Catholic Church in the country.

Former Imus bishop Luis Antonio Tagle is now the 32nd Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Manila.

Installed at Manila Cathedral earlier today through a solemn ceremony, Tagle was welcomed by a karakol or a dance procession of about 1,500 church members from Cavite. Tagle then received keys to the cities of Manila, Pasay, Makati, Mandaluyong and San Juan as sign of the cities’ cooperation with the Church before the liturgical and canonical rites. Inside the Cathedral, bishops, clergymen, nuns, students and guests witnessed Tagle’s installation and attended his first mass as Manila’s archbishop. Sen. Bong Revilla and wife Lani, Chief Justice Renato Corona and master musician Jose Mari Chan were among those in attendance.

‘There is hope’

The pews were a sea of white as priests donned their ceremonial gowns. A scroll announcing the appointment of Tagle from the Vatican was read, priests lined up to greet the new church leader, and documents were signed in the ceremony that lasted over two hours. A choir accompanied by violins made harmonious music in a festive, but formal celebration.

In his homily, Tagle spoke of faith and humility.  He also talked about the necessity of unity and of selflessness in order to achieve the goals of the Church. “We need to follow the Lord in our mission not individually, but together. As disciples,” he said. Tagle expressed optimism in fixing current problems faced by society, primarily by accepting the Lord. “When we are transformed, we see differently,” he said. “If we only receive with the eyes of Christ, whenever we see as the Lord does, there is hope.”

He broke into tears several times during his thirty-minute message, moved and overwhelmed by the message of the Gospel and the support he has received. His sincerity drew applause from the crowd at various times throughout his speech, and at one point even compelled a number of men from the Cavite clergy to give him a standing ovation. He also joked about how his new position is dangerous in that if he is not careful, he could convince himself he is a star, but he emphasized that the day was not about himself, constantly reminding those present that in everything, “it is Christ.”

Tagle’s installation comes nearly two months after Pope Benedict XVI named him the replacement for 79-year-old Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales. He was the youngest of the contenders and had reportedly worked with the Pope before, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in Washington D.C. where Tagle pursued his Doctorate in Sacred Theology.

Tagle is currently a member of the International Theological Commission of the Vatican, an expert of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia, and the chairman of the Commission on Doctrine of the Faith of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). Charismatic and intelligent, he is considered conservative and traditional, and is expected to lead the Church’s campaign against the government’s controversial thrust for the Reproductive Health Bill, now that he occupies a politically powerful Church position. It will be engaging to see how his rally plays out. Tagle is known to be one of the church leaders closest to President Benigno Aquino III, as well as to his relatives, the Cojuangco and the Lopa family. – 

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.