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Opinion

Why is Cardinal Chito Tagle a strong candidate for Pope?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

I cannot read the mind of Pope Francis, but his actions speak louder than words. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle has been appointed to five positions, successively one after another, and elevated earlier this month, to the highest rank among the cardinals. If that isn’t an endorsement, I don't know what is.

Appointed as President of Caritas Internationale, the social arm of the Church since 2015, he has control over millions of funds for social welfare projects and programs all over the world. He is also President of the Catholic Biblical Federation since 2015 too. Aside from his honorary title as Cardinal Priest (now Cardinal Bishop) of San Felice de Cantolice, he is also a well-recognized academician, and recently appointed by the Pope as Chancellor of the Pontifical Urban University earlier this year. He has been conferred eleven Doctorates Honoris Causa by FEU, San Beda, La Salle-Dasmariñas, La Salle Main, UST, Xavier University, and Holy Angels University.

The papacy isn’t vacant but Pope Francis is 83 and has failing health. If Pope Benedict resigned due to health problems, it isn’t impossible nor improbable that Pope Francis would one day announce he would be voluntarily leaving the seat of St. Peter. And, like Christ Himself, who did select and anoint a fisherman as the first pope, the former Mario Bergolio might be thinking of what we in HR call career succession planning. If you have seen the movie “The Two Popes”, it is clear that the outgoing pontiff did anoint the chosen successor to fill the shoes of the Fisherman. And Cardinal Chito, by all indications, looks like the Pope's favorite likely successor. Of course, it is the College of Cardinals who shall vote on that by secret ballot. And it is the Lord himself who will finally decide.

The rank of cardinal bishop is equivalent to a five-star general in the military. Only very few have reached that rank in the whole world, which included General Douglas MacArthur and General Dwight Eisenhower, who was later elected US President. And today, there are only 11 cardinal bishops in the biggest religion of 1.3 billion faithful. And many of these cardinals have reached retirement age and cannot vote anymore in the next conclave that will elect the next pope. Cardinal Chito is the youngest at age 62, and many of the others are above 80 and 70. He is also the only Asian with that high rank.

Pope Francis focuses his pontificate on Asia because no less than two-thirds of the world's entire population live here in our part of the world. The Philippines alone has no less than 85 million Catholic faithful in a country of 110 million. Even our 12 million OFWs and migrants are regularly and faithfully hearing masses and practicing the seven sacraments in about 200 countries all over the world. Cardinal Chito is the only Cardinal who can speak for no less than 85 million Catholics. Cardinal Chito is an excellent communicator. He can connect with people, especially the poor. He is a deeply religious and decent pastor of the Church. He is brilliant but very simple in his ways.

We can see Jesus in the way he lives his life. He is bold and courageous but never abrasive and confrontational. He is passionate in his propagation of faith but he tolerates other religions and treats people with respect and affection. I have a strong feeling that 2020 has a secret light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel.

CHITO TAGLE

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