It’s a big step forward for the archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, as he assumes the post of prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples this February. After all, the congregation oversees the work of the Catholic Church in dioceses in Africa, Asia, and Oceania, covering around one-third of the world’s 4,000 dioceses.
The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Pontificio Collegio Filipino, Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, cited Cardinal Tagle’s appointment to the Vatican post as “an honor to Filipinos and an immense blessing to our country, overflowing grace to His Eminence.”
“The timing of his appointment is perfect as we prepare to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the country in 2021,” Bishop Santos said. “(He) makes us proud as Filipinos, and our country as beacon for new evangelization.”
In his remarks during a recent farewell gathering in his hometown in the Philippines, Cardinal Tagle declared: “This kind of celebration gives me strength …. From here, I will be an overseas Filipino worker (OFW).”
The reference to OFWs is significant because the Philippines has sent nearly a tenth of the total population of 104 million — and counting — to the four corners of the world.
Migration is a subject that’s of particular interest to Cardinal Tagle precisely because of this.
In an article he wrote on the occasion of the discussion in the United Nations in December 2018 on a “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,” Cardinal Tagle pointed out: “The global compact on migration shows the desire of governments to work together on one of the most urgent issues of our time.”
“The compact will help governments fine-tune migration policy together with other stakeholders, such as civil society organizations and the private sector, to benefit sending and receiving countries,” he added.
“Although not legally binding, it offers a 360-degree orientation for governments, addressing issues such as the drivers of migration, climate change and the integration of migrants,” said the cardinal.
“Adherence to the compact is beneficial for migrants, as it gives visibility to a phenomenon that is often dealt with only as an emergency.”
In the same article, he referred to the words spoken by Pope Francis on the subject of migration: “Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves.”
“In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.”
Although Cardinal Tagle has been away from the Philippines for a few years when he went to the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. for his masters and doctoral degrees, it would appear that this is the first time in a long while that he would be away from family and friends, as well as from his Catholic flock as archbishop of Manila.
As such, he would probably face the same trials and tribulations faced by millions of Filipinos forced by economic circumstances to work abroad, chief among them homesickness and a constant longing to be with family and friends.
But Cardinal Tagle’s new sphere of work, having to mingle with people of various backgrounds and cultures, would also allow him to enrich the Catholic faith and how it seeks to attract new converts and strengthen the beliefs of those already within the fold.
Cardinal Tagle’s work experience in the Philippines would serve him in good stead when he starts working for the Vatican. As bishop of the diocese of his hometown in Imus, Cavite province, he ministered to the spiritual needs of 2.6 million Catholics.
Later, he hosted television programs where he shared his interpretation of Scripture readings and replied to viewers’ question on the Bible and the Catholic faith.
As archbishop and spiritual leader of 2.8 million Catholics in Manila, he mingled with people from all walks of life. His experience as president of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 165 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations operating in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, would also prove invaluable when he goes to various places as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
With Cardinal Tagle already in Rome as an OFW, Filipino Catholics will no doubt miss his presence and his words of wisdom. But they can take heart in the thought that while he may be away, his work in the Vatican will redound to the benefit of the Catholic Church in the Philippines as well, and it’s going to be as if he never left.
Ernesto M. Hilario writes on political and social justice issues for various publications in the Philippines. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of LiCAS.news.