Luis Antonio Tagle, Philippines’ seventh cardinal

By:  N. J. Viehland

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle receives an honorary doctorate from the Benedictine Fathers’ San Beda College in Mendiola, Manila in March 2012 / N J Viehland Photo

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle who will be officially made a cardinal in today’s consistory in Rome will become the seventh filipino Cardinal in the nearly five-hundred year history of Catholicism in the Philippines.  

Cardinal Tagle follows Cardinals Rufino Santos, Julio Rosales, Jaime Sin and Jose Sanchez, who have all passed away. Cardinals Ricardo Vidal and Gaudencio Rosales are both past 80 years old. Cardinal Rosales will be attending the consistory, Manila archdiocese’s communication officer reported.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle discusses with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, his predecessor as archbishop of Manila in the sidelines of a plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in Manila / Dave Viehland Photo published with permission.

Tagle will receive the red hat and the ring, symbols of his membership in the College of Cardinals, during the solemn consistory at St. Peter’s Basilica on November 24, 2012, the eve of the Solemnity of Christ the King. The three-cornered hat is said to be a symbol of a cardinal’s readiness to lay down his life for the gospel. It also signifies his rank in the Church that qualifies him to elect a pope.

In the College of Cardinals, “Every cardinal is a candidate” when election of a pope is required, Canon lawyer Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran, who represents the Eastern Visayas region in the Permanent Council of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) told me in early November.

The Consistory will be held at 11 am (6 p.m. Manila time) and Catholic global television EWTN will broadcast the event.

Philippines’ newest cardinal

Manila-born Tagle, 55, completed his A.B. Philosophy studies at Jesuit-owned Ateneo de Manila University and San Jose Seminary for diocesan priests in 1973. He finished his M.A. studies in Theology at Loyola School of Theology and San Jose Seminary in 1982, the same year he was ordained a priest for Imus Diocese, in Cavite, northern Philippines.

He obtained his licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. in 1987 and his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the same university in 1991.

Pope John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Imus in 2001, a post he served until his installation last December as Archbishop of Manila.

Tagle, whose ministry in the Philippines included serving as parish priest, seminary spiritual director, rector and episcopal vicar for Religious, also taught in various seminaries in his country.

He served as Facilitator for the CBCP National Ongoing Formation of Priests, and acted as consultant of its Episcopal Commission on Seminaries and Commission on the Doctrine of Faith, which he now chairs.

Beyond Church in the Philippines, he was member of the Editorial Board of Storia del Concilia Vaticano II, Instituto per le scienze religiose in Bologna, Italy, and was presenter and member of the drafting committee of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) Plenary Assemblies VI and VII. He has since been elected to head the Office of Theological Concerns of that most authoritative body through which Asian bishops have spoken as a body. Tagle presently holds that post.

When he was ordained a bishop, Tagle was serving in the Vatican’s International Theological Commission. He has served various synods as council member and expert. As a priest in 1998, he was appointed as theologian expert for the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia. He was also appointed member of the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in Vatican City.

He was serving in the Message Committee of the recent Synod on New Evangelization when Pope Benedict announced his elevation to cardinal on October 24, 2012 as the synod was winding down. Five others were also named cardinals to be created in an unusual second consistory in a year. These other new cardinals expected at tonights consistory are from America, Africa and Asia, including:

*Archbishop James Michael Harvey, Prefect of the Pontifical Household, who will be appointed Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls

*His Beatitude Bechara Boutros Raï, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites (Lebanon)

* His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro- Malankara (India)

* Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja (Nigeria)

* Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez, Archbishop of Bogota (Colombia)

Pope Benedict in announcing the new cardinals said, “the Cardinals have the task of helping the Successor of Peter in the performance of his ministry of confirming the brethren in the faith, and that of being the principle and foundation of unity and communion of the Church.” He also asked for prayers “for the newly elected.

Philippine cardinals have performed the task described by the pope in a variety of roles.

Unlike the other Philippine cardinals, Sanchez who died at the age of 91 in the Philippines just last March served all of his active years as cardinal in the Roman curia.

Nuns of the Dominican Daughters of the Immaculate Mother community where Cardinal Jose Sanchez resided until his hospital confinement in March 3, 2012 cover his casket during the funeral Mass at the packed Good Shepherd Cathedral Shrine in Novaliches, Quezon City celebrated on March 12, 2012 by Filipino and foreign priests and bishops led by Cardinal Ricardo Vidal / N. J. Viehland Photo

In 1985 Pope John Paul II  appointed Sanchez  Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in Rome three years after he was named archbishop of Nueva Segovia, Ilocos Sur 

Sanchez was elevated to cardinal in 1991 and was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See the same year. He held his position in the Congregation for the Clergy until he retired in 1996.

Catholics have organized thanksgiving Masses for their new cardinal in Imus on Dec. 3 and in Manila the next day. 

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle [second from left] before concelebrating at the funeral Mass for Cardinal Jose Sanchez last March 2012 at Good Shepherd Cathedral in Novaliches with [left to right] Bishops Gilbert Garcera, Camilo Gregorio and Mylo Vergara / N J Viehland Photo

Who knows where Cardinal Tagle’s path will lead from here? Will he be sent down a similar path Sanchez traveled ? Will he be engaged for a longer time for the archdiocese in the way of his predecessors in Manila?

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