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Manila Archbishop Prepares To Serve Bigger Church As Cardinal


March 17 2006

For Cardinal-elect Gaudencio Rosales of Manila, getting the red hat is a call for special service to the universal Church.

Two days before leaving March 17 for Rome, he told reporters that membership in the College of Cardinals is a "special relationship with the Church" in which bishops become "special counselors and assistants of the Holy Father in shepherding the universal Church."

For the 73-year-old Manila archbishop, being made a cardinal is a call to "enter into a new relationship with the chief shepherd of the universal Church as a companion, cooperator, as an assistant, as counselor." Pope Benedict XVI named Cardinal-elect Rosales on Feb. 22 as one of 15 new cardinals to be invested March 24 at the Vatican during the pope´s first consistory.

Cardinal-elect Rosales becomes the second active Philippine cardinal. The last time a Filipino was elevated to cardinal was in 1991, when now retired Cardinal Jose Sanchez was appointed to the Roman Curia. Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu was made a cardinal in 1985.

At a press conference in the Manila chancery building March 15, Cardinal-elect Rosales told about a dozen reporters that he felt humbled by the appointment. "I feel totally unworthy and incompetent in a sense because of the expectation of some people, but not incompetent inasmuch as I know what God wants me to do," the Manila Church leader said.

He acknowledged experiencing "anxiety and fear" after hearing of his appointment, even if he had recognized the possibility of elevation to cardinal when he was appointed to head Manila archdiocese. The late Pope John Paul II appointed Cardinal-elect Rosales as Manila archbishop in 2003, after the late Cardinal Jaime Sin retired at the age of 75.

Cardinal-elect Rosales told UCA News that he expects above all to help in "pastoring" the Church. He said he is "clear" about his role and mission. "I am a shepherd, especially to those who are very much in need," he said, explaining that the rich and powerful can fend for themselves.

If Pope Benedict asks him about the nation he said he would report, "We are a people striving to be one, to be at peace with one another." If asked about the clergy, he said he would tell the pope "the truth," which is that Philippine priests are "basically and fundamentally good." However, he added, "there are also weaknesses within the priesthood." Cardinal-elect Rosales chairs the commission on clergy of the Philippine bishops´ conference.

Reporters asked the newly appointed cardinal to comment on media comparisons of him with his predecessor, Cardinal Sin. There is "no cause for concern because the one who will judge me is God, not the press, and he (God) will judge me on how much love I´ve given to people," the prelate responded.

He recalled that when he "marched" into his Manila appointment, he knew what he faced because his predecessor was a "charismatic" and "political figure." His own personality and experience put him in a "completely different league," the cardinal-elect said. Moreover, he added, situations in the Church today are different from when Cardinal Sin served. In his view, "Politics is a very small area and we don´t want to imprison the Church in that little area."

Cardinal-elect Rosales plans to start his Rome visit with a retreat March 19-21 at the headquarters of the Little Sisters of Jesus. On March 23, the 48th anniversary of his priestly ordination, he will attend the Day of Prayer for all cardinals at the Synodal Hall in the Vatican, according to copies of his itinerary given to reporters.

The itinerary says the public consistory to create the new cardinals will take place March 24 at 10:30 a.m. in Paul VI Auditorium. There the new cardinals will receive their biretta, or red hat. The next morning they are to celebrate Mass with the pope in St. Peter´s Basilica. There they will be given rings symbolizing their union with the Church and the Holy Father.


(Accompanying photos available at here)