With “high hopes for the Philippines,” Pope Francis has urged Filipinos to help alleviate the plight of the poor in their midst, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said Thursday.
In a statement released by the Archdiocese of Manila, Tagle urged Catholics to rally behind the new Supreme Pontiff, the first Pope from Latin America and the first non-European to be elected to the papal throne in over 1,200 years.
“When I approached Pope Francis to assure him of the closeness and collaboration of the Filipinos, he said, ‘I have high hopes for the Philippines. May your faith prosper, as well as your devotion to Our Lady and mission for the poor,’” Tagle said.
“What a compelling message from this humble man of God! All praise and glory to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” he added.
Tagle, who is still in Rome and was considered one of the candidates for the papacy, thanked the faithful for their prayers during the conclave that elected Pope Francis.
“Let us join the whole Church and the world in thanking God for His special gift in the extraordinary person of Pope Francis. I thank you for your fervent prayers for the cardinal electors. We never felt alone even for a moment. Your love sustained us,” he said.
Jesuits in the Philippines thanked him for accepting his election despite the challenges the Church faces. Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to be chosen to lead the Roman Catholic Church and its 1.2 billion members.
President Aquino led the nation in welcoming the election of the new Pope.
“The President, along with the Filipino people, joins all the Catholic faithful as they receive their new leader and meet his proclamation with a sense of boundless promise,” the President’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, said at a briefing in Malacañang.
“We hope and pray that this will inaugurate a pontificate that will bear witness not only to the basic tenets of the Gospel, but also serve as a voice for peace, justice and charity in a world threatened by tension and armed conflict, poverty, uncertainty and loss of confidence in institutions,” Lacierda said.
Vice President Jejomar Binay said Pope Francis “reminds us that serving our fellowmen is a duty not only of the Church, but of all Catholics.”
Fr. Jose Magadia, the Jesuit provincial superior, said the Philippine Province Society of Jesus “rejoices with the rest of the Church that our cardinals have so quickly been able to name a new Holy Father.
“They have chosen a man with long experience leading God’s people in Argentina, with a heart very much concerned for the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, and whose manner of life is touched by great simplicity and faith,” Magadia said.
He noted that Pope Francis had remained a “loyal son” of the Church and had given his life to its service.
“That Pope Francis comes from the Society of Jesus and shares with us the spirituality of St. Ignatius is a special gift, but of secondary importance to his own deep commitment to the Lord and his having remained a loyal son of Christ’s Church, giving so much of his long life to making it an instrument of truth and clarity for all,” Magadia said.
While Tagle proved a strong contender to the papacy, Fr. Emmanuel “Nono” Alfonso, executive director of the Jesuits Communication Foundation Inc., said that it was providential that he was not elected by the conclave saying, “We still need his guidance.”
Alfonso said that Pope Francis’ being a Jesuit brother made Jesuits familiar with his spiritual formation. “We have an idea of how he thinks and how he is as a servant of God,” he said.
As for the new Pope’s previous pronouncements against same-sex marriages and adoption by same-sex couples, “No priest, no Catholic priest for that matter can really veer away from the teachings of the Church … Truth is not based on any popular opinion. Truth is based on the revelation of God,” he said.
The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the new Pope was “God’s answer to the challenges of the Church.”
CBCP president Jose Palma said he expected Pope Francis to speak more against environmental degradation.
Encyclical on environment
Asked what the impact of the new Pope would be in the Philippines, Palma said Francis was against artificial contraception, divorce, and other aspects of the so-called “culture of death” while being a progressive on social justice issues and the environment.
“But for me, one of the wonderful expectations is that there would be more pastoral letters or encyclicals on the environment because St. Francis was big on the care of creation. That for me is a good expectation,” Palma said in an interview.
Palma said taking care of the environment should be a priority since the country was suffering from the consequences of ecological degradation.
“We abuse the gifts we receive and that is not to our advantage. So, the Church should make us aware and hopefully, we will wake up and work to take care of God’s blessings,” he added.
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said all Masses celebrated Thursday in his archdiocese were offered in thanksgiving for the new Pope.
Gift from heaven
Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra said Pope Francis was a gift from heaven. “He is the choice of the Holy Spirit.”
Msgr. Esteban Binghay, episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said he, like most Catholics, didn’t expect the outcome of the conclave.
“I was surprised since Pope Francis was not among the favorites (on the list of papabili released by different media organizations). It was the Holy Spirit who actually led the cardinals to choose him. We can choose our favorites but the Holy Spirit is the sole judge,” he said.
Binghay said he admired Pope Francis for his humility. “He is the first Pope who asked the people to bless him before imparting his blessing. He is also the first Pope who did not wear the big red cape which symbolizes power and triumph. He was very simple,” he said.
Blessed are the poor
Retired Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Antonio Rañola was elated with the election of Pope Francis whom he said is a “very simple man.”
“We are happy that the new Pope chose the papal name Francis because St. Francis of Assisi is a man who exemplified what is meant by the ‘blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God,’” he said.
Jaro Auxillary Bishop Jerry Alminaza said he was happy with the new Pope’s choice of name from St. Francis because “it is significant for our times.”
“The new Pope is known for his simplicity, a bishop of social justice and of love of the poor that is an affirmation of our work here,” Alminaza said.
In Iloilo City, Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo expressed the hope that the new Pope would bring to the papacy what he had started in his native Argentina.
“He now brings the same experience and charisma to the wider world of the Church,” Lagdameo said in a statement. “Long live the new Pope!”
Kalibo Bishop Jose Corazon Tala-oc said, “We look forward to his leadership of the Church in these modern times.”
The election of Pope Francis should be welcomed with great joy and celebration, said Fr. Amadeo Alvero, spokesman of the Palo archdiocese in Leyte.—With reports from Michael Lim Ubac and Jerome Aning in Manila; Joey Gabieta, Carla Gomez, Ador Vincent Mayol and Nestor Burgos, Inquirer Visayas