Phl joins ‘smoke watch’ as Tagle participates in selection of next pope
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - March 10, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines joins the “smoke watch” at the Vatican as Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle participates in the selection of the Catholic Church’s new leader after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

A US-based group called Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP had expressed support for Tagle to be the next pope.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte cited the good news yesterday over radio dzRB, adding that many other groups had also conveyed their support for Tagle.

“Let us see. I think the Vatican has announced the date for the conclave on March 12,” Valte said.

She said Filipinos would be among those anticipating the announcement of a new pope because of Tagle, who was tagged as Asia’s best hope for the papacy.

Tagle was named a cardinal in November last year, becoming the official chief spiritual leader to the Philippines’ more than 80 million Catholics.

This came shortly after Tagle was summoned to Rome for a synod to map out the way forward for the Church, which has been rocked by scandals over sexual abuse by pedophile priests going back decades, according to previous reports.

“The Church must learn humility from Jesus,” Tagle said in a speech to the synod, arguing that spreading the faith in a secularizing world would be more effective if the Church learned to listen to the people.

“(You) may be saying the right things but people will not listen if the manner by which you communicate reminds them of a triumphalistic, know-it-all institution,” he said according to an account of the speech by Vatican radio.

At another Vatican conference last year, Tagle urged the Church in Asia to tackle the sex abuse issue before it became a full-blown crisis there, and put in place safeguard measures that take into account the region’s cultural norms.

Tagle, 55, is widely regarded as an enthralling speaker, eloquent and with a soothing voice.

He has refused to discuss his chances for the papacy but, at a public seminar in Manila last month, said Church leaders needed to do a better job of reaching out to people within their communities, particularly the youth.

Tagle’s best asset

It had been reported that Tagle knows how to reach the masses as he sings on stage, preaches on TV, and brings churchgoers to laughter and tears with his homilies.

But his best response against the tide of secularism, clergy sex abuse scandals and rival-faith competition could be his reputation for humility.

His compassion for the poor and unassuming ways have impressed followers in his homeland, Asia’s largest Catholic nation, and Church leaders in the Vatican.

The talks surrounding Tagle have been fueled by prominent Vatican experts, who see in the boyish-looking cardinal the religious zest, stamina, charisma and communications skills that could energize the Church facing crises on many fronts.

John Thavis, a Vatican analyst and author of “The Vatican Diaries,” said the selection of Polish-born John Paul II in 1979 shows the “unthinkable” can occur once the cardinals are closed off in the conclave.

“There are people, even Vatican officials here, who have whispered to me, ‘Tagle, he’s the man’,” Thavis told The Associated Press.

When asked about the papal buzz, Tagle demurred: “Only a speculation.”

“He’s an effective communicator and missionary at a time when Catholicism’s highest internal priority is a new evangelization,” John Allen, a Rome-based analyst, wrote for the National Catholic Reporter.

“Tagle incarnates the dramatic growth of Catholicism outside the West, putting a face on the dynamic and relatively angst-free form of Catholicism percolating in the southern hemisphere,” he said. “He would certainly be a symbol of the Church in the emerging world, but given his intellectual and personal qualities, hardly a hollow one.”

One of two children of a pious Catholic couple who worked in a bank, Tagle dreamed of becoming a doctor. But he was redirected by a Jesuit friend to the priesthood at a seminary in the upscale Ateneo de Manila University, where he graduated summa cum laude, according to his theology professor, the Rev. Catalino Arevalo.

Silent worker

Apart from his great communications skills, Tagle speaks fluent Italian, English and Tagalog. He also has proficient French and can say Mass in Latin.

But he prefers to stay in the background.

“He’s not somebody who sort of wants to, by personality, put himself at the center of the stage,” Arevalo said. “Now, if he’s called to be in front, he has all the capability of doing it.”

Tagle took clear positions on Church and social issues but was never confrontational or “super militant,” Arevalo said. For instance, he encouraged dialogue when he helped lead an unsuccessful Church campaign against the government-endorsed health plan that promotes contraceptives. – With AP, Evelyn Macairan

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