COVID-19 prevents Tagle from visiting elderly parents in Cavite

Paterno Esmaquel II

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COVID-19 prevents Tagle from visiting elderly parents in Cavite

The parents of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Manuel Sr (R, in white) and Milagros (R, in pink), attend the church leader’s 60th birthday Mass on June 21, 2017.

Angie de Silva

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle likely got COVID-19 in transit to the Philippines, where he was supposed to visit his parents who are now in their 90s

Like many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, 63, longed to return to the Philippines to check on his elderly parents. The coronavirus pandemic is, after all, most especially perilous for people like Manuel Sr and Milagros Tagle, now both in their 90s.

Tagle – who calls himself an OFW, and is now based in the Vatican as one of Pope Francis’ top consultants – was supposed to visit them in Cavite during his current summer break.

The cardinal tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, September 10, however, preventing him from visiting Mr and Mrs Tagle. The former Manila archbishop, who goes by his nickname Chito, is known to be close to his parents.

Manuel Sr and Milagros Tagle – who once felt it was a “letdown” that their son entered priesthood, as they wanted him to become a doctor – were in fact fixtures in his major Masses and events when he was based in the Philippines. Tagle had described them in his biography, written by veteran Vatican journalist Cindy Wooden, as “bank employees who were able to gain some promotions through hard work.”

“Cardinal Chito came home also to visit his elderly parents in Imus, Cavite. Now he is prevented from doing so because he has to stay in isolation in the next 14 days,” said Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, acting president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, in a letter to his fellow bishops on Saturday, September 12.

“Fortunately, he is asymptomatic. May I ask you to please have him included in all your daily Mass intentions until he recovers fully from COVID-19 so that he can resume his important ministry for the universal Church?” David said.

David said Tagle “may have picked up COVID-19 right at the airport or in the airplane,” as he “probably could not avoid being greeted by people, especially OFWs, who recognized him at the airport or inside the plane.”

Vatican Press Office director Matteo Bruni earlier said Tagle already tested negative in a swab test conducted in Rome on September 7. David said Tagle underwent the test “precisely to be allowed to make the trip to Manila.”

Tagle is the highest ranking Vatican official, and also the most prominent Catholic leader worldwide, to have tested positive for COVID-19.

Vatican watchers say Francis is grooming Tagle, who is also known for his charisma and love for the poor, to become a potential successor.

The former bishop of his hometown Imus, Tagle is now prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, an office poised to become the second most important in the Catholic Church. He holds the rank of cardinal-bishop – the highest to be given a cardinal, which is held only by only 11 churchmen 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