MANILA, Philippines—Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle is sticking to his schedule in the Philippines and will not immediately fly to Rome following Pope Benedict XVI’s historic decision to resign by the end of the month, officials of the Archdiocese of Manila said on Wednesday.
Fr. Reginald Manicdem, the cardinal’s secretary, said Tagle was still waiting for information from the Vatican on when he should leave for Rome.
“We are still waiting for the communication coming from the Vatican about the activities and when the cardinal should be there,” Manicdem said Wednesday.
Peachy Yamsuan, the archdiocese’s communication chief, said there would still be time for Tagle to go to Rome since, after the Pope resigns on Feb. 28, church rules give the cardinals 15 days to prepare for the conclave to elect a new Supreme Pontiff.
“Things have not changed and he’s sticking to his schedule,” Yamsuan said.
Tagle has been named as among the 10 front-runners in the race for the papal throne.
According to retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz, three things could help Cardinal Tagle’s bid for the papacy: his intellect, kindness and holiness.
Cruz told the Fernandina forum in Club Filipino in San Juan City on Wednesday that Tagle was “very bright,” having graduated with summa cum laude honors from the schools where he studied in the Philippines and abroad.
“One of the highest virtues that (Cardinal Tagle) has is (his intellect),” he said.
He also said that Tagle is “very kind,” and has not seen him get mad, adding that the cardinal is a “holy” person, someone who was “close to God.”
“These are really the on-the-ground realities,” Cruz explained.
But Cruz said that Tagle’s youth could also work against him. At 55, the cardinal is considered “too young” and as such, “lacked experience,” he said.
This, according to Cruz, was needed to administer a “universal church.”
“If it’s difficult to govern a country, what more (a universal church)? This requires very good experiences,” he said.
On Monday, Pope Benedict announced he was stepping down from the papal throne by the end of the month, saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to cope with the demands of his ministry due to his advanced age.
Pope Benedict became the first Pontiff to step down since the Middle Ages.
A report on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website said the outgoing Pope had appointed a total of 30 out of the 89 active Filipino bishops and archbishops, including Tagle.
“If there is one of the great contributions of Pope Benedict XVI to the Philippines, it is perhaps the number of new Filipino archbishops and bishops that he appointed,” the report said.
“In nearly eight years as head of the Catholic Church, the pope has named eight archbishops and 22 bishops to oversee the temporal affairs and accounts of local pastoral territories in the country,” it added.
Nueva Segovia Auxiliary Bishop William Antonio, the Pope’s last appointee to the episcopate, said he could not help but be thankful for the trust that Pope Benedict had given him.
Antonio said he noticed the pope’s “frail” health condition when he met him in Rome few months after his ordination as bishop in August 2011.
“It’s true that his mind is still sharp but physically he is already frail. I understand why he came up with such decision (to resign),” Antonio said.
He said the Philippines was “really close to (the Pope’s) heart.” “He is well versed about the issues in our country and the concerns of the Church.”
Other archbishops appointed by Benedict XVI include Jose Palma of Cebu, Romulo Valles of Davao, Sergio Utleg of Tuguegarao, Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Jose Advincula of Capiz, John Du of Palo, and Rolando Tria Tirona of Caceres.
The Pope also named Bernardito Auza as the papal nuncio to Haiti, making him an archbishop in May 2008.—With a report from Kristine Felisse Mangunay