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Is Tagle the ideal pope? Listen to homily

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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'It is the final sign of what the cardinals may be thinking before they head off to vote'

700-YEAR TRADITION. On March 12, cardinals replicate this scene to elect the Catholic Church's new Supreme Pontiff. File photo from AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Cardinals on Tuesday, March 12, will hold a Mass that is likely to drop clues on their mindsets before holing up in the Sistine Chapel for the papal elections called the conclave.

At the Vatican Basilica, the cardinals will celebrate the pro eligendo Romano Pontifice Mass, or the Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff. The Mass will take place at 10 am in the Vatican, or 5 pm in the Philippines, presided over by Cardinal Dean Angelo Sodano and concelebrated by all cardinals, including non-voters.

“The homily is closely attended, as it is the final signal of what the cardinals may be thinking before they head off to vote,” wrote veteran Vatican watcher John Allen in his book Conclave: The Politics, Personalities, and Process of the Next Papal Election.

In 2005, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger presided over the pre-conclave Mass at the Vatican Basilica, and referred to “many ideological currents” in recent decades. 

“We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires,” said Ratzinger, who, a day later, became Pope Benedict XVI.

“At this time… let us above all pray insistently to the Lord that after his great gift of Pope John Paul II, he will once again give us a Pastor according to his own heart, a Pastor who will guide us to knowledge of Christ, to his love and to true joy,” he said.

Throughout his 8-year papacy, Benedict indeed criticized relativism and sought to revive faith in an increasingly secular world. (Read: The Pope, the world in 7 quotes.)

Secret meetings

For this year’s conclave, even before Tuesday’s Mass, clues on the cardinals’ mindsets have already begun to emerge. (Read: The secret meetings before the conclave.)

UNDER SECRECY. Cardinals, like Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle (left), vow not to leak the discussions in their General Congregations. Photo from's Facebook page

In pre-conclave meetings, the Vatican said cardinals thoroughly discussed transparency. 

On Monday, March 11, in fact, the Vatican said cardinals discussed the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), another name for the secretive Vatican bank. “Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, as president of the Commission of Cardinals for oversight of the IOR, presented the current operations of that commission to those present along with the process for adopting the norms of transparency that it has established,” the Vatican said in a statement.

“Naturally, much was also said about the expectations and hopes for the future Holy Father,” it added.

In a recent analysis, Allen said the cardinals will likely choose a pope based on 4 “camps,” or schools of thought: 

  • “Governance camp” – those who want a pope who can reform the Vatican’s internal offices, to end controversies like Vatileaks

  • “Pastoral camp” – those who want a pope who will be hands-on with problematic Catholics, including priests

  • “Third World camp” – those who want a pope from growing Catholic populations outside Europe

  • “Evangelical camp” – those who want an intellectual who can popularize Church teachings

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the charismatic papal contender from the Philippines, may be a candidate desired by the “pastoral” and “Third World” camps. (Read: Tagle’s words that struck the world.)

Having been a cardinal for only 3 months after Pope Benedict XVI resigned, however, may be his weak point.

Tagle is an outsider when it comes to the Vatican bureaucracy. At 55, he is also considered too young to lead the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church. 

(Know the other papal contenders in Rappler’s video report below.)

By 4:30 pm in the Vatican (11:30 pm in the Philippines), cardinals will make a solemn procession to the Sistine Chapel – once and for all, to elect the next pope. (Read: Elaborate rituals to elect 266th pope.) – 

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email