Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle on Thursday arrived from Rome following his elevation to cardinal, vowing to be a “humble listener” to the needs of the faithful and to bring more focus in instilling God and family values in the lives of the country’s Roman Catholics.
Tagle, accompanied by his parents, Manuel and Milagros, and private secretary Fr. Reginald Malicdem, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 1 around 11 a.m. on board Cathay Pacific Flight CX-901.
They were welcomed by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Bernardino Cortez, archdiocesan social communications director Peachy Yamsuan, Jesuit priest Fr. Catalino Arevalo, Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Jose Angel Honrado and Pasay City Mayor Antonino Calixto.
In a press conference held at the Naia dignitaries lounge, Tagle recounted how other cardinals and Vatican officials would repeatedly refer to the “great church” of the Philippines.
He said even Pope Benedict XVI mentioned that the Philippines was a “very Catholic country.
“Maybe there is a challenge [to us] that the Philippines, being a Catholic country, should make contributions to other parts of the world,” he said.
Tagle said the Pope’s message to him and other new cardinals during the November 24 consistory were to become “closest collaborators” of the pontiff in deepening the Catholic faith in local churches and the strengthening of the “communion” between the Filipino laity and the Vatican hierarchy.
Asked what he thought was the greatest crisis confronting the Catholic Church in the Philippines, Tagle said he wanted Filipinos not to live “God-less” lives and to continue valuing their families.
“We Filipinos have a deep sense of God, sense of the sacred. But this may be diminishing. And this is where we should be careful and not get to a point when we would already be saying that we can live our lives without God. This is what is happening in other parts of the world,” he said.
Tagle lauded Filipinos who showed their support for him, saying, “the grace and honor bestowed on me were not for me only but for my family, the archdiocese, the Church and the entire Philippines.”
The cardinal dismissed talks and articles that he could be a “future Pope,” saying, “I treat it as speculation. It’s better if I deal with truths and real concerns instead of wasting time about it. God and the Church act differently in such situations. [Papal elections] are not a popularity contest or a reality TV race where the winner with the most text votes wins,” he said.
He referred to an old Italian proverb saying that the cardinal who entered the conclave as a papabile or papal contender would come out of the conclave still a cardinal. “What often happens is that, the Pope who gets elected is not the one expected [to win]. So let us all relax.”
Tagle is the only one among the country’s three living cardinals eligible to vote for a pope or be elected as one.
The two others—his predecessor Gaudencio Rosales and retired Cebu archbishop Ricardo Vidal—are over 80 and are no longer allowed to vote according to the rules.
Tagle also spoke about his being seen on television wiping tears after the Pope bestowed on him the symbols of his office during the consistory held at St. Peter’s Basilica.
“I cry easily. My tears flow even at the slightest breeze. Maybe there are some people who have the gift of tears. What happened to me was not scripted. It was the sense of grace, of which I was not worthy of, which made me feel humble, but which I can’t refuse. Also, I cried because of the heavy burden placed on me. Now that I’m a cardinal, I asked myself, ‘Can I do this? Who am I to do this?’ It was a mixture of joy and fear, the solemnity of the event and the Pope’s continuous blessings and assurances about the Church in the Philippines,” he recounted.
Tagle also discounted the possibility that the Pope could ever visit the Philippines, citing his age and his advisers’ recommendation that he cut down on his trips.
The archdiocese’s chancery recently unveiled Tagle’s new personal coat of arms as cardinal, which is nearly the same as the old one. The only difference is the color of the galero or the wide-brimmed hat with tassels changed from green to scarlet. The number of tassels also increased from 20 to 30.
The coat of arms still features Tagle’s motto “Dominus Est! (It is the Lord!),” taken from John 21:7, and a cruciform staff.
Featured on the arms were images recalling his ecclesiastical career: the three-windowed tower symbolizing the Holy Trinity; the crescent moon symbolizing the Immaculate Conception, the principal patroness of the Philippines; the merlion symbolizing Manila; a column symbolizing the Our Lady of the Pillar, patroness of the Imus diocese where Tagle was previously assigned; and a lily and the carpenter’s rule, the latter symbolizing St. Joseph and both referring to the Jesuit-run San Jose Seminary at Ateneo de Manila University, which Tagle attended.
During the consistory, the Vatican announced that Tagle would be the titular priest of the parish church of St. Felix of Cantalice in Rome’s Centicello suburb. This is in line with the ancient tradition that cardinals must be members of the Roman clergy and are thus appointed to ecclesiastical positions within the diocese of Rome, of which the Pope is the bishop.