An official of the Archdiocese of Cebu in the central Philippines corrected what he described as a popular perception that an archdiocese needs to have a cardinal as a “shepherd.”
“Well, to be honest, without any prejudice to anything or anyone, being a cardinal is really an honorary title added to being a bishop,” said Monsignor Joseph Tan, spokesman of the archdiocese.
The priest made the statement after news site Rappler posted the story “Pope Francis bypasses Cebu” as it reported on the appointment of Archbishop Jose Advincula of Capiz as cardinal.
Monsignor Tan said “the only privilege is that cardinals can join the conclave (as an elector) for the new pope.”
The priest explained that even lay people have been appointed cardinal in the history of the Roman Catholic Church even if they were not ordained priests.
Monsignor Tan said people might presume that the motivation behind selecting a cardinal is “political” to support the advocacies of the pope.
“But out of respect to the Holy Father — the pope has full discretion to choose without intended offense to anyone — [there’s] no other qualification — not even the place like Cebu,” he said.
Monsignor Tan said the Archdiocese of Cebu is not a cardinalate assignment but an “archdiocese that needs an archbishop.”
The current “shepherd” of Cebu is Archbishop Jose Palma who replaced Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal Ricardo Vidal in 2011.
Since then, people have been expecting the Vatican to name Archbishop Palma a cardinal.
“Being a priest is not a career,” said Monsignor Tan in a mix of Cebuano and English, quoting Pope Francis.
It has become a tradition in the Philippines that cardinals are named for the metropolitan areas of Manila and Cebu.
Pope Francis broke that tradition in 2014 when he named Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato a cardinal.