The new archbishop of Manila said he will maintain “an open line of communication” with the presidential palace despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated attack on the Catholic Church.
“I foresee to maintain an open line of communication with [the presidential palace],” said Cardinal Jose Advincula, new archbishop of Manila, in a recorded interview released to media on March 31.
The cardinal, who was appointed by Pope Francis on March 25, said protecting human rights will be one of his key missions in the archdiocese.
When he was named cardinal by Pope Francis in October last year, Cardinal Advincula said protecting human rights must be at the heart of the Church’s mission.
“The Church has to see to it that the human dignity and the human rights of the people are respected,” he said.
Human rights groups has characterized the Duterte administration with widespread abuses, including extrajudicial killings and a climate of impunity.
A report released by the UN Human Rights Office in June 2020 noted what it described as “widespread and systematic killing of thousands of alleged drug suspects.”
It also cited the alleged killings of “numerous human rights defenders” over the past five years.
In January this year, Cardinal Advincula led seven other bishops from the central Philippines in condemning the killing of nine indigenous peoples during a series of police raids in the provinces of Capiz and Iloilo.
The cardinal admitted that he felt fear over his new mission in a highly-urbanized archdiocese. “I know my inadequacies and I believe Manila is a very challenging archdiocese,” said the cardinal.
“But I continue trusting in the grace of God and in the help also of the people who would be around me,” he added.
When asked if he would follow the style of the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, former prelate of Manila and a vocal critic of the government, Cardinal Advincula said: “Cardinal Sin is Cardinal Sin.”
“I am afraid I could not be as vocal as Cardinal Sin,” he said, admitting that the former prelate of Manila was his Latin teacher in the seminary.
About the killings, mostly in the national capital, in the past five years, the cardinal said several bishops “have already spoken a lot on this matter, on this issue, and I think the government is trying its best to address the COVID-19 problem.”
He said his primary role is to tend to his flock, saying “I am still a shepherd.” The archbishop said he will “try to concentrate on the pastoral life of the people in Manila.”
“I want to look at first the situation in the entire archdiocese … because a shepherd, I believe, can be more effective in addressing the needs of the people if he knows the real situation or the condition of his flock,” said the cardinal.
Born on March 30, 1952, in Capiz, Cardinal Advincula was ordained priest in 1976. He was appointed bishop of San Carlos in 2001 and archbishop of Capiz in 2011.
In October 2020, Pope Francis name the prelate of Capiz a cardinal, the ninth in the Philippines following Cardinals Orlando Quevedo, Tagle, Gaudencio Rosales, Jose Sanchez, Ricardo Vidal, Jaime Sin, Julio Rosales, and Rufino Santos.
The 69-year prelate has been the second Filipino named by Pope Francis as cardinal after Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, the 81-year-old archbishop emeritus of Cotabato.
Coming from a lesser-known diocese, Cardinal Advincula admitted he was surprised by his appointment to the College of Cardinals.
“This might be a way the Holy Father wants to convey to the people the presence of the Church in the peripheries,” he said.
“I always thought that the Church has to be closer to the people, especially those that are in the peripheries,” he added.