Pope Benedict XVI has added Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle and five other prelates to the ranks of cardinals who will elect his successor.
Benedict made the surprise announcement during his weekly general audience in the Vatican Wednesday and said the new cardinals would be elevated at a consistory on Nov. 24.
The nominations help even out the geographic distribution of cardinals, which had tilted heavily toward Italy, according to the Associated Press.
Aside from Tagle, the other new cardinals are Msgr. James Harvey, the American prefect of the Pope’s household; Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan; Archbishop of Bogota, Colombia, Ruben Salazar Gomez; Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in Lebanon Bechara Boutros Rai; and the Major Archbishop of the Trivandrum of the Siro-Malankaresi in India Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal.
Tagle becomes the Philippines’ seventh cardinal, following Cardinals Gaudencio Rosales, Jose Sanchez, Ricardo Vidal, Jaime Sin, Julio Rosales and Rufino Santos.
Tagle, 55, is currently in Rome for the synod of bishops on the new evangelization.
While his fellow Filipino bishops did not vote for Tagle as one of their representatives to the synod, the Pope named him a member of the gathering and even appointed him vice president of the commission that will craft its final message.
Tagle and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas have caught the attention of international Vatican watchers for their pleas at the synod for a new evangelization for the Church to be humble if it were to win new converts.
Writing on the National Catholic Reporter website, renowned senior CNN Vatican analyst John Allen Jr. said the interventions of Tagle and Villegas on Oct. 8 were at that time among the “most compact as well as the most distinctive” among those made by Church leaders attending the synod.
Tagle urged the Church to “learn humility from Jesus” and “discover the power of silence.”
Villegas called on the Catholic hierarchy to “shun arrogance, hypocrisy and bigotry” and “punish the errant among us instead of covering up our own mistakes.”
“The Church must learn humility from Jesus. God’s power and might appears in the self-emptying of the Son, in the love that is crucified but truly saves because it is emptied of self for the sake of others,” Tagle said in his intervention.
The 55-year-old prelate said the Church was called “to follow Jesus’ respect for every human person,” adding that Jesus had defended the dignity of all people, “in particular those neglected and despised by the world.”
“The Church must discover the power of silence. Confronted with the sorrows, doubts and uncertainties of people, she cannot pretend to give easy solutions. In Jesus, silence becomes the way of attentive listening, compassion and prayer. It is the way to truth,” Tagle said.
“The seemingly indifferent and aimless societies of our time are earnestly looking for God. The Church’s humility, respectfulness and silence might reveal more clearly the face of God in Jesus. The world takes delight in a simple witness to Jesus—meek and humble of heart,” he added.
Allen quoted Irish theologian Eamonn Conway, who is among the expert advisers at the synod, as saying that Tagle’s intervention “had a certain resonance” in the synod hall, “meaning people were favorably taken by it.”
Allen, who last year tagged the Manila archbishop as a possible papal contender, said Tagle was “widely considered a rising star among Asian bishops.”
Allen also noted the equally powerful plea for humility from Villegas, a protégé of the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin.
“Why is there a strong wave of secularization, a storm of antipathy or plain cold indifference toward the Church in some parts of the world necessitating a new wave of evangelization programs?” Villegas asked.
“The new evangelization calls for new humility. The Gospel cannot thrive in pride. When pride seeps into the heart of the Church, the Gospel proclamation is harmed. The task of new evangelization must begin with a deep sense of awe and reverence for humanity and her culture,” he said.
Tagle said the Church’s missionary efforts had been “hurt and continues to be impeded by the arrogance of its messengers.”
“The hierarchy must shun arrogance, hypocrisy and bigotry. We must punish the errant among us instead of covering up our own mistakes,” Villegas said.
Writing in his blog, “Whispers in the Loggia,” American Church analyst Rocco Palmo described Villegas’ intervention as a “grenade in the aula” while adding that Tagle was “a golden child” whom Benedict named last year as head of the country’s primatial see.
“With some 75 million faithful, the Filipino Church is even larger than its US counterpart, and considerably more influential on the national stage,” said Palmo, who has served as a Church analyst for the New York Times, the Washington Post, BBC, and other media entities.
“Yet while the prior generation of its leadership literally led the revolution that overthrew a government, its heirs have apparently come to a rather different sense of their mission,” he added.
The Catholic Church, led by Cardinal Sin, was instrumental in the overthrow of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and the presidency of actor-turned politician Joseph Estrada in 2001.
But since then, the Vatican has been trying to tone down the Church’s political activism in the Philippines since that might have a negative impact on Catholic missionary efforts in neighboring countries.
The synod, which ends on Oct 28, brings together 262 select Church leaders, most of them bishops, from across the globe. Of this number, 182 were elected by episcopal conferences and by the Union of Superior Generals of religious congregations.
Forty other prelates were personally named by Pope Benedict.
In a blog post titled “The Pope’s favorites,” veteran Italian journalist Sandro Magister noted that Tagle was among those who were named by Benedict to join the synod.
Magister revealed last year that some cardinals and bishops at the Vatican’s Congregation of Bishops complained that Tagle’s ties to the “liberal” Catholic group of scholars known as the “School of Bologna” was not included in his file when they reviewed his candidacy for the See of Manila.
However, Tagle has since said that he does not subscribe to the belief that the Second Vatican Council was a “rupture” in Catholic tradition, a view attributed to the School of Bologna. This view has been roundly criticized by conservative Catholics, including Benedict.
“(Tagle)… at the previous two synods, when he was bishop of Imus, had been elected by his confreres, while now it was the Pope who had to fish him out again,” Magister wrote in his blog www.chiesa.espressonline.it