Two months after his elevation to the College of Cardinals, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has been appointed to two key councils in the Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday named Tagle a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which deals with pro-life issues, and the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.
The five other prelates who became cardinal in November together with Tagle were also given new assignments in the Vatican curia.
“According to the Catholic News Agency, [the cardinals, while keeping their main jobs, can] bring their experience and perspective to bear on the discussions and decisions of the central church offices that assist the Pontiff,” a report posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines news website said.
“As member of the two Rome-based offices, Tagle may attend the councils’ important meetings and receive regular correspondence from Rome on matters that need consensus,” the report said.
According to the Vatican website, the Pontifical Council for the Family is responsible for the promotion of the pastoral ministry and apostolate for the family, dealing with issues related to responsible procreation, and the defense of human life “in all stages of its existence, from conception to natural death.”
The council also deals with sex education, demographics, contraception and abortion; sterilization, ethical and pastoral problems related to AIDS and other problems of bioethics; legislation regarding marriage, the family, family policies and the protection of human life,” the report said.
The appointment is significant, tending to show that the Vatican is strengthening Tagle and through him, the Catholic Church in the Philippines in its fight to stop the government from enforcing the reproductive health (RH) law that the Universal Church views as an attack on life and the family.
Signed by President Aquino on Dec. 31, the law provides for free family planning services and artificial contraceptives to Filipinos and requires sex education in schools.
Allies of the Church have challenged the constitutionality of the new law in the Supreme Court.
Arguments in the court will try to resolve whether the new law is a government and legislative action against the Church and religious belief.
Pending in Congress is a bill that would allow divorce in the Philippines, the only country in the world besides the Vatican that still respects the biblical injunction against divorce.
The Philippines is also one of only five countries in the world where the HIV/AIDS epidemic is increasing. One Church source said Tagle had personally ministered to people living with HIV/AIDS.
Tagle’s appointment to the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples is also significant since the Philippines is a major exporter of labor, with 10 percent of the country’s more than 90 million population working abroad.
According to the Vatican website, the council was given the task of studying and providing pastoral care to “people on the move” such as migrants, exiles, refugees, displaced people, fishermen and sailors, air travelers, road transport workers, nomads, pilgrims, or circus people.
Government officials have said that Filipino sailors man up to 30 percent of the world’s merchant marine fleet.
Besides Tagle, the other cardinals who were given positions in the Vatican include:
US Cardinal James Harvey, archpriest of Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, membership in the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and on the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, which oversees Vatican property and investments.
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, head of the Maronite Catholic Church, membership in the Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers and the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
Indian Cardinal Baselio Cleemis Thottunkal, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, membership in the Congregation for Eastern Churches and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Nigerian Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, membership in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the presiding committee of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, membership in the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
According to Tagle’s secretary, Fr. Reginald Malicdem, the cardinal is also a member of two other Vatican bodies: The Congregation for Catholic Education and the permanent council of the Synod of Bishops.