Although happy about the elevation of the Archbishop of Manila to cardinal, Catholic Church officials hope Pope Benedict XVI will call another consistory next year and promote the Archbishop of Cebu to the College of Cardinals.
President Aquino, too, is glad about Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle’s promotion to cardinal, joining the Catholic Church on Thursday in welcoming the good news from the Vatican.
“Archbishop Tagle is somebody I really admire from way back,” Aquino told reporters on the eve of his departure from Sydney after state visits to New Zealand and Australia. “And it’s really a credit to what he has done for the Church and for its followers to be recognized and given this singular honor. And we applaud the decision of the Vatican [to] name him cardinal.”
In Manila, Malacañang joined the jubilation, with presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda saying the government was “overjoyed” that “good Pope Benedict” promoted Tagle to cardinal.
Lacierda described Tagle as an “intellectual heavyweight” from the Church hierarchy.
“We are also aware that he’s a shepherd; that he has tended to his flock with utmost concern, with utmost love; and is na man called to serve his people,” Lacierda said. “And therefore, we are very pleased and we are very thankful to the Pope for appointing Bishop Chito Tagle the next Filipino cardinal,” he added.
120 in College of Cardinals
The elevation of Tagle and five other archbishops from different countries during the consistory on Nov. 24 will raise the membership of the College of Cardinals to the traditional 120.
But Fr. Reginald Malicdem, private secretary to Tagle, on Friday said a number of cardinals would reach the age of 80 next year, after which they would no longer be qualified to vote in a conclave for the selection of a new pope.
The retirements will reduce the College of Cardinals’ voting strength, necessitating promotions to restore the membership to 120.
Malicdem said he hoped Pope Benedict XVI would call another consistory, with Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu among those to be elevated to cardinal.
Unusual Nov. 24 consistory
Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said Palma could be the Philippines’ next cardinal because the Archbishop of Cebu was usually made a cardinal.
“Manila and Cebu will always have cardinal archbishops,” Cruz said.
Malicdem said the consistory on Nov. 24 was unusual because the Pope already held a consistory in February.
“The last time two consistories happened in the same year was back in the 1920s,” he said.
Malicdem also noted that of all the Archbishops of Manila, Tagle was the fastest in getting into the College of Cardinals.
“He was named archbishop on Oct. 13 last year and now the Pope has named him a cardinal. This is a historic moment for the Archdiocese of Manila,” he said.
The making of cardinals
Malicdem, who also served as private secretary to former Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales when the latter was made cardinal in 2006, said a Vatican consistory involved three days of celebrations.
“On the day itself, the rite (of creating cardinals) is held in St. Peter’s Basilica. In the presence of all other cardinals, the new ones are given rings and red hats,” he said.
“Then (on the following day), there is a Mass of Thanksgiving [celebrated] by the Pope. Those are the two public events. But the day (before the rites at St. Peter’s), all cardinals and the new cardinals have a day of reflection and thanksgiving,” he said.
Malicdem said Tagle would most probably be accompanied by his family and a delegation of priests and lay people to the consistory.
“Based on my personal experience, he is really known (by prelates from other countries) when we go to Rome. Even in a meeting, when he is just sitting on the sides, bishops and cardinals would approach him,” Malicdem said.
“They come from different countries. They would exchange pleasantries and ask how Manila was doing,” he added.
When asked about speculations that Tagle could be Pope one day, Malicdem said: “That’s hard to answer because it’s the Holy Spirit that identifies them (but) the mere fact that we are hearing that he is being considered, or that his name is being mentioned, is a big honor for us Filipinos.”
President Aquino does not want the nation’s jubilation to be spoiled by a misunderstanding of his message by some of his critics in the Church.
“Now what I worry about [is] if I praise him, will he be criticized… by Church people who are against me?” Aquino said in Sydney.
He added: “Hopefully, Cardinal Tagle, my praising you will not get you into a bad light with certain people who always think ill of me.”
Feud over RH bill
The President and the Church are feuding over a reproductive health (RH) bill that would recognize the right of married couples to limit the size of their families through artificial contraception.
The Church opposes artificial contraception while the President endorses it and insists the bill would prohibit abortion.
The measure is pending in Congress. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac and TJ Burgonio