ucanews.com reporter, Manila
Updated: March 14, 2013 11:04 PM GMT
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the man many in Asia hoped to see as the next head of the Catholic Church, issued a glowing assessment in welcoming Pope Francis on Thursday.
Calling the new pope an “extraordinary person,” Tagle thanked all those who had supported and prayed for the cardinals during this week’s conclave.
“We never felt alone, even for a moment,” he said.
Following the decision on Wednesday evening, Tagle said he approached Francis to assure him of the support of his nation of 90 million people who had inevitably hoped and prayed that their countryman would be chosen to be the new pope.
“He [Francis] said, ‘I have high hopes for the Philippines. May your faith prosper, as well as your devotion to Our Lady and mission to the poor,’” said Tagle.
Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, president of the country’s bishops’ conference, welcomed the newly elected pope, saying he was as a known defender of traditional Church doctrines.
“I heard he is strong against contraception, against divorce, against all of these issues,” said Palma. “On the other hand, he is strong when it comes to social concerns.”
The new pope has been outspoken against abortion and same-sex marriages in Argentina.
He reportedly urged the clergy to tell people to protest the ratification of a divorce law as it could "seriously injure the family."
President Benigno Aquino, who signed into law last month the controversial reproductive health law which will see free condoms distributed for the first time, said his administration is "eager to work" with the Catholic Church "towards shaping a world in which each and every human being is allowed to live a life of peace, joy, and dignity."
The president said that he hoped the election of Pope Francis will bring "the promise of renewal in the Catholic Church, as it strives to fulfill its mission here on earth.
"We hope and pray that this will inaugurate a pontificate that will bear witness not only to the basic tenets of the Gospel, but will 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," Aquino said in a statement.
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa downplayed the sentiments of Filipinos who were hoping that Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle would be chosen to be the new pope.
"Electing a pope is not a contest, much less a competition among nationalities," Arguelles said.
Father Marvin Mejia, assistant secretary of the bishops' conference, said the Church needs somebody who is a good administrator and who can bring about changes, especially in the curia.
"We believe [Pope Francis I] can address that," he said.
Churches around the Philippines announced that Thursday Masses will be offered for the new pope.
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