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Pope names three Asians as new cardinals

Archbishop Tagle says he was 'unprepared' for surprise announcement

Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila is one of the six new cardinals named in the surprise announcement (Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons) Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila is one of the six new cardinals named in the surprise announcement (Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
  • Alessandro Speciale, Rome
  • Vatican City
  • October 25, 2012
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Pope Benedict XVI has announced the appointment of six new cardinals, including three Asians. The new Asian names, announced on Wednesday, are Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, head of the Syro-Malankara Church in India, and Patriarch Bechara Rai of the Maronite Church in Lebanon.

The new cardinals will be created at a consistory in Rome on November 24.

Two of the new Asian cardinals will be the youngest in the Catholic Church as Tagle is 55 and Thottunkal 53. Previously, the youngest member of the College of Cardinals was Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelky of Berlin who turned 56 in August.

Interviewed on Vatican Radio, Archbishop Tagle – who is currently in Rome attending the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization – admitted to being “unprepared to receive this honor.”

He stressed that the appointment should be considered as recognition not of his individual value but of the whole Church in the Philippines.

“This Church has an important role for the mission in the whole of Asia. Maybe this is a gift to promote the Filipino Church's role in evangelizing Asia,” he said.

Tagle is considered a rising star in the global church and has been tipped as a possible candidate in a future conclave.

In one of his first public outings as a cardinal-elect, he called for the Church to speak less and listen more to its people.

“I realize that the sufferings of people and the difficult questions they ask are an invitation to be first in solidarity with them, not to pretend we have all the solutions,” he told Vatican Radio.

“I believe the Church should contribute in the public square but we in Asia are very particular about the mode… you may be saying the right things but people will not listen if the manner by which you communicate reminds them of a triumphalistic, know-it-all institution… I know that in some parts of Asia the relative silence, calmness of the Church is interpreted as timidity, but I say no, it makes the Church more credible.”

Pope Benedict's unexpected move comes only a few months after the last batch of cardinals was created in February. It is unusual for a Pope to have more than one consistory per year.

On that occasion, the choice of the new 'princes of the church' had been criticized for being too centered on Italy and Europe, and for favoring those who work in the Vatican Curia. Bishops from dioceses in Latin America or Africa were conspicuous by their absence.

This time, none of the new cardinals are from Italy or Europe and only one - American James Michael Harvey who presided over the prefecture of the Papal Household - comes from the Vatican.

On November 24, there will be 11 Asian Cardinals out of 120 who might be called to vote in a hypothetical  conclave to elect a new Pope.

Pope Benedict has also shown a desire to emphasize the role of Eastern Catholic churches. Two of the new Asian cardinals, Thottunkal and Rai, come from Eastern rites and in the previous conclave the pontiff had already elevated Cardinal Alencherry, the head of the Syro-Malabar Church in India.

Related report

Pontiff names 22 new cardinals
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