“We felt like children clinging to a father who bids them farewell,” Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said a day after Pope Benedict XVI, 85, announced that he was resigning on Feb. 28.
Tagle urged the faithful to pray for the Pope, saying that the Pontiff’s decision came as a surprise that brought sadness to Catholics, but also showed his courage and sincerity.
“But sadness gives way to admiration for the Holy Father’s humility, honesty, courage and sincerity. His paramount desire is to promote the greater good of the Church,” Tagle added in a statement.
Benedict, who was elected to the papacy in 2005 when he was 78, said he no longer had the strength to cope with the demands of the ministry.
Tagle among front-runners
Tagle has been mentioned as a “papabile” (papal contender).
Reuters on Monday named Tagle, 55, the second-youngest cardinal, as among the Top 10 front-runners to become the next Pope.
Following the Pontiff’s announcement, Denverpost.com ran profiles of Benedict’s potential successors, including Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz of Brasilia; Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; Cardinal Marc Oellet, head of the Congregation for Bishops; Gianfranco Ravasi, Vatican culture minister; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri; Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paolo; Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn; Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan; Tagle; and Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican justice and peace bureau.
The Denverpost.com described Tagle as a charismatic cardinal who had worked with the Pope at the International Theological Commission.
It, however, said that while Tagle had many fans, conclaves were “wary” of young candidates.
That Tagle is among the reported papabili is an “honor” for the Philippines, said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.
“As to whether they are really going to consider Cardinal Tagle, we leave it to the conclave to decide,” Lacierda said.
All cardinal electors are eligible candidates with Tagle being the lone Filipino vote, according to Msgr. Joselito Asis, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
But he said Filipinos should not get their hopes too high about having one of their countrymen on the papal throne by next month.
Work of Holy Spirit
“This is the work of the Holy Spirit … As of now, if we look at the cardinal electors, they really can’t pinpoint a dominant name so this is going to be exciting,” Asis said.
Of the 118 cardinal electors as of Jan. 28, the biggest bloc was from Europe (62), followed by Latin America (19), North America (14), Africa (11), Asia (11) and Oceania (1), according to the Vatican website.
Of the 62 Europeans, 28 are Italian, many of them working in the Curia. Before mid-March, two cardinal electors are set to reach the age of 80, which means they can no longer vote in a conclave to elect a new Pope.
The conclave of cardinals is expected to be held in March within 15 or 20 days of the resignation. A new Pope is expected to be elected before March 31.
“Cardinal Tagle is a papabile but we are never sure. We leave it to the Holy Spirit to do the job of electing the Pope,” said Fr. Francis Lucas, executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Communications and Mass Media.
“Any Pope will do as long as he leads us in the right direction and leads us. [The] color [of the skin] does not matter especially in the globalized Church,” Lucas added.
“Of course, we Filipinos would like a Filipino to be the Pope. I guess all countries would be proud if one of their own cardinals become Pope,” he said.
The Philippines is one of the most important countries in Asia for the Catholic Church. About 80 percent of the country’s 100 million people are Catholic, a legacy of the country’s former Spanish colonial rule.
Asked what qualities would make Cardinal Tagle eligible for the papacy, Lucas said: “He’s humble, meek, simple, bright, media-savvy, spiritual. It’s like ‘all of the above.’”
Indication in book
Fr. Catalino Arevalo, considered the “dean” of Filipino theologians, said the Pope had intimated in a book interview two years ago that the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the modern era could resign if he could no longer do the job.
“Benedict is a great man. This confirms it. He also has been a great Pope. I am very sad to lose him but he is certain God wants this now of him. In that book of interviews two years ago—“Light of the World”—he said this might be really necessary for a Pope who believed he could no longer do his job adequately,” Arevalo said.
He said he had half-expected this might happen. “Benedict is a man who is free enough to take the step. As I said, I’m very sad but the Pope believes he should now do it, from his love for the Church,” Arevalo added.
Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said the resignation of Benedict was a shock to many Catholics. “Let us pray for the Holy Mother Church which suffers this serious crisis. Benedict XVI’s declared Year of Faith is never so relevant for us as now,” he said.
While Catholic Church leaders in the Visayas felt sad over the Pope’s resignation, they expressed admiration for his decision to give up his position because of failing health.
Msgr. Meliton Oso, executive director of the Jaro Archdiocesan Social Action Center in Iloilo, said the Pope’s resignation provided a “shining” example.
“Here is a person vested with so much and vast powers who, after discerning and prayer, resigned from his position and let others assume his post,” Oso said.
He said Benedict’s decision to step down by admitting his inability to cope with his work due to old age should be followed by leaders in and out of the Church.
“Let us follow his example. Let’s do a ‘Benedict’ if we are already a hindrance to growth and reforms,” Oso said, adding that the Pope’s decision was timely for the Philippines, which will be holding elections in May.
Message to dynasty
“[The Pope’s resignation] is a slap on the face of political dynasties that cling to power for generations come what may,” he added.
Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra agreed. “With the Pope’s resignation, the message for the whole Church from the lay people to the clergy is to be willing to rearrange our lives according to what God wants us to do, and not be engrossed in personal interest, and in grasping for power and authority,” Navarra pointed out.
Archbishop John Du of the archdiocese of Palo, Leyte, who made a statement through his media spokesman, Fr. Amadeo Alvero, said the Church would still need the Pope’s wisdom, especially in major decisions it would be making.—With reports from TJ Burgonio in Manila; Nestor Burgos Jr., Carla P. Gomez, Joey Gabieta, Jhunnex Napallacan and Carmel Matus, Inquirer Visayas; and AFP