Red Pope Tagle
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - December 12, 2019 - 12:00am

I knew that the appointment of Cardinal Tagle as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples is a major appointment to a critical post. However, since I am not well versed in the complexities of the Vatican organization, I decided to do, in the words of the academic, a “quick and dirty” research. I was especially interested  in the description that this was one of the most powerful positions within the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church. 

Appointment to this position has been said to make the person papabile, Italian term  to describe a person, a Cardinal, who is thought a possible candidate to be elected pope. Several popes were considered papabili before they were elected. The two most recent popes were considered  papabili. These were Joseph Ratzinger elected as Benedict XVI in 2005 and Jorge Mario Bergoglio elected as Francis in 2013. In the 2013 papal elections which elected Pope Francis, there were 12 persons considered as papabili. One of them was Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. 

 It is important to remember that the papacy is two thousand years old and the Vatican  bureaucracy is one of the most complex and mysterious in the world. The two terms that will start a person on the road to understanding the Vatican bureaucracy are the “Roman Curia” and “Dicastery”.

The Roman Curia is composed of all the administrative bodies and institutions of the Holy See. It is the central organization which conducts the affairs of the Catholic Church. It acts in the name of the Pope and its principal role is to advance the interests and objectives of the Church under the overall direction set by the Pope.  

There have been times in the past when, under a weak pope, the Curia was the real power in the Church. Powerful popes have tried to reform and reorganize the Curia time and again. There have been some limited success. Pope Francis is still trying to  reform the Curia; but, after six years he has not fully succeeded. 

The word “Curia” is from the Latin term which means “court”. In a sense curia means the “royal court” if the Pope is compared to a monarch. If we compare it to a modern presidential form of government, Roman Curia would be composed of the offices and agencies in the Office of the President, the members of the Cabinet and independent commissions or task forces with a mandate from the president.

In the Roman Curia, the principal departments of the Roman Curia are called “ Dicasteries”. The constitution of the Catholic Church – Pastor Bonus – has this definition: “ By the word dicasteries are understood the Secretariat of State, Congregations, Tribunals, Councils and Offices. 

The Secretariat of State is the oldest and most powerful dicastery in the Roman Curia. It is responsible for all the political and diplomatic functions of the Holy See. The second highest ranking body are the nine Roman Congregations in the Curia. Each Congregation is headed by a Prefect who is a Cardinal.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or the Holy Office, oversees Catholic doctrine. In one of the most violent periods of the Church, this was known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition. 

The Congregation for the Oriental Churches is responsible for contact with the Eastern Catholic Churches for assisting their development, protecting their rights, maintaining whole and entire in the one Catholic Church alongside the liturgical, disciplinary and spiritual patrimony of the Latin Church, the heritage of the various Oriental Christian traditions. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints oversees the process for canonization of saints.

Congregation for the Clergy oversees matters regarding priests and deacons not belonging to institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life regarding their government, discipline, studies, goods, rights and privileges. Congregation for Catholic Education is responsible for universities, faculties and Catholic institutions of higher learning. Congregation for Bishops oversees the selection of new bishops that are not in mission territories and arranges creation of new dioceses.

Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

This Congregation is responsible for missionary work and related activities. It has jurisdiction over nations and territories that are still considered mission territories by the Vatican. The Congregation has been called the biggest in the Curia because it oversees the work of the Catholic Church in most dioceses in Africa, Asia, and  Oceania. The Prefect for this Congregation is considered one of the most powerful figures in the Church because he supervises around one-third of the world’s estimated 4,000 Catholic dioceses. 

According to a statement by the Curia: “The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has jurisdiction over 186 archdioceses, 785 dioceses, 82 vicariates apostolic, 39 prefectures apostolic, four apostolic administrations, six missiones sui iuris, one territorial abbacy and six military ordinariates.“ 

Red Pope is the nickname for the Cardinal who leads the Congregation on the Evangelization of People. The term is used because Cardinals wear scarlet robes unlike the pope who is normally in white. It is also used to describe the tremendous power of the Prefect of this Congregation especially in missionary countries.

We pray that God will give this Filipino Red Pope the strength and the courage to fight for the rights of all people to lead a life of human dignity and social justice. 

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on Dec, 14  with Rin Chupeco (1:30 pm-3pm; stand-alone session) at Fully Booked BGC. For details and registration,  email

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