Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle left Manila for the Vatican in February. (Photo: AFP)
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle has been appointed by Pope Francis as a cardinal-bishop, making him the only Asian cardinal to hold such a rank.
Cardinal Tagle, 62, left Manila for the Vatican in February to take up office as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, also known as Propaganda Fide.
The elevation of the Philippine prelate was announced by the Vatican on May 1. He served as the 32nd archbishop of Manila from 2011 until December 2019.
Father Ranhilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda Graduate School of Law, explained the significance of Cardinal Tagle’s appointment in the Vatican hierarchy.
“Cardinals are classified into three ranks: cardinal-bishops, cardinal-priests and cardinal-deacons. Cardinal-bishops are cardinals who are assigned to suburbicarian sees or dioceses outside Rome but surrounding Rome. There are seven such suburbicarian sees,” he said.
“Cardinal-priests are the most numerous in number, and so far all Asian cardinals have been cardinal-priests. Cardinal-priests are assigned to a titular church in Rome. Cardinal Tagle belonged in this rank.
“Finally, there are cardinal-deacons. These are the cardinals who serve in the Roman Curia or who have already reached 80 at the time of their creation as cardinals, so they are given the red biretta to honor them.”
As the Roman Curia has run out of suburbicarian sees, Cardinal Tagle has been given a “nominal diocese” that the pope has made equal to the suburbicarian sees.
Cardinal Tagle has joined the ranks of Cardinals Pietro Parolin (Vatican secretary of state), Leonardo Sandri (Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches), Marc Ouellet (prefect of the Congregation for Bishops) and Fernando Filoni (Tagle’s predecessor at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples).
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte claimed in March that Cardinal Tagle was removed as archbishop of Manila because Pope Francis was “angry” at Tagle for his involvement in politics.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, vice-president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, described Duterte’s remark as “unbelievably ludicrous,” saying Duterte should stop wasting time on baseless allegations and instead “go back to real issues of the day.”
Meanwhile, Bishop Arturo M. Bastes, former chairman of the commission on mission of the bishops’ conference, said Cardinal Tagle’s continuous rise in the church hierarchy is proof that he has the trust and confidence of the pope.
“Contrary to the belief of President Duterte, I guess it is clear that Cardinal Chito still has the trust and confidence of Pope Francis,” he told told UCA news.