A year before the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the introduction of the Roman Catholic faith in the Philippines, Luis Antonio Tagle has chalked up a first: he is the only Filipino and the first Asian to be appointed cardinal bishop in the Vatican.
This is a significant achievement, in more ways than one.
First, it is further recognition of his doctrinal competence, leadership qualities, and possible contributions to the growth and development of the Church as a whole in the future.
Second, his promotion by Pope Francis gives him the unique opportunity to be considered as possible successor to the papacy in the future.
Third, it will be a big boost for the Catholic Church in the Philippines as it would encourage more young people to choose to study for the priesthood and therefore increase the reach and influence of the faith throughout the archipelago and even beyond.
And fourth, it will also strengthen the country’s position as a predominantly Catholic nation in Asia. Next year, the nation will observe the 5th Centennial of the coming of Catholicism in 1521.
Cardinal Tagle’s presence on this momentous occasion will no doubt lend the event a special meaning, with Church leaders and the faithful looking up to him as the personification of the core values and beliefs of the Catholic Church.
Among these core values are: truth, fellowship, worship, compassion, unity, love, acceptance, holiness, prayer, excellence, integrity, discipleship and empowerment.
Moreover, Cardinal Tagle is likely to reaffirm his commitment to the core principles of Catholic social teachings. These include respect for human dignity; respect for human life; association; participation; dignity of work and the rights of workers; preferential option for the poor and the vulnerable; solidarity, and stewardship.
Cardinal Tagle has consistently upheld these values and teachings since he was ordained a priest and held various leading positions in the Philippine Catholic Church.
As Archbishop of Manila, he spoke out against what he felt was the current political dispensation’s blithe disregard for the right to life, particularly in its war against illegal drugs that has led to the death of no less than 6,000 people, according to official police reports. Human rights groups claim a much higher figure of casualties in the bloody war against drugs since 2016 up to the present.
No wonder therefore that President Rodrigo Duterte, smarting from the criticisms leveled by Cardinal Tagle and outspoken bishops against the conduct of the war on drugs, recently falsely claimed that the cardinal had been dismissed from his post as Manila Archbishop by Pope Francis for allegedly “meddling in politics” and for funneling Church funds to other uses than social action. Duterte, however, offered absolutely no evidence to support his accusations.
Lately, however, Duterte’s spokesman congratulated Cardinal Tagle on his promotion as cardinal bishop.
Here’s what presidential spokesman Harry Roque actually said: “We warmly greet His Eminence, Cardinal Tagle, on his appointment as a cardinal bishop. This is the highest title of a cardinal in the Catholic Church …. The achievement of Your Eminence is the achievement of the Filipino people. Thank you for this honor and congratulations.”
Roque did not say whether President Duterte specifically asked him to relay his greetings to Cardinal Tagle, or whether it was only his own.
At any rate, Cardinal Tagle deserves the full support of the faithful in the country as he embarks on a new journey in his chosen calling.
We have no doubt that given his track record, he will prove more than equal to the challenges that come with his new position. As Cardinal-Bishop, he carries heavy responsibilities that will certainly test his mettle in the years ahead.
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.