A future pope?

I’m thinking: yes.  I’m liking this fellow.  A lot.

Catholic News Service has details of the young cardinal-designate:

The youngest of six cardinals announced Oct. 24 is widely lauded for his theological gifts and his humility.

Cardinal-designate Luis Tagle, 55, of Manila, Philippines, “really takes care of people … he’s so simple and generous and there’s no class structure when he deals with people; everyone is equal in his eyes,” said Nemie Anciado, a longtime custodian at the cathedral in Imus, Philippines, where the cardinal-designate was bishop from 2001 to 2011.

Anciado spoke to Catholic News Service in October 2011, after his bishop was named archbishop of Manila. One year later, Pope Benedict XVI announced he would make him a cardinal in a consistory at the Vatican Nov. 24.

Cardinal-designate Tagle told CNS Oct. 24 that the month of October, which is the month of the rosary, “is big for me.” He was informed in October 2001 that he would become a bishop and was told he’d be transferred to Manila in October 2011. “And now it’s October again,” he said, laughing.

Describing to CNS what it was like to hear the announcement that he was being elevated Oct. 24, Cardinal-designate Tagle fought back tears.

“Listening to the text of the pope’s letter being read out to me, I also felt like — here it comes,” he said. “It felt like someone far greater than I am is here. Very near.”

Admirers have widely lauded the theological gifts of the archbishop known as “Chito.”

“The depth of his understanding of theology was already at a far more superior level during our college years,” said Ricardo Jalbuena, who attended Jesuit-run Ateneo De Manila University’s San Jose Major Seminary with him. “It was always enlightening to have Chito around.”

Jalbuena described the cardinal-designate as a gifted speaker who does not shy away from modern media.

“He’s familiar with (it) such that God’s word could be readily communicated and understood by all,” he said.

Last spring, John Allen put him on the “long shot” list for future popes:

The case for: At 54, Tagle is already a key point of reference for Catholicism in Asia, the “go-to” figure within the Asian bishops’ conference on most theological questions. He’s taken strong positions against a proposed “Reproductive Health” bill in the Philippines, which includes promotion of birth control, yet his towering social concern is defense of the poor, and he’s got a strong environmental streak. He’s a gifted communicator, making him a sought-after speaker and media personality. He drew rave reviews for his performance at a 2008 International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec, where observers say he brought an entire stadium to tears. One Filipino commentator has said that Tagle has “a theologian’s mind, a musician’s soul and a pastor’s heart.”

The case against: To begin, there’s the obvious fact that Tagle is not yet a cardinal. (That could change as early as next year, if there’s indeed a consistory in 2013 consisting mostly of non-curial appointments). Despite having studied in Rome, Tagle has no real Vatican experience. Some may wonder how much he’s up to speed on realities in other parts of the world; during a Vatican summit in February on the sex abuse crisis, for instance, Tagle was caught off guard when reporters asked what the law is in his country on reporting accusations of child abuse, suggesting to some that he hasn’t assimilated the lessons of the crisis elsewhere. Tagle’s youth is also likely a drawback, at least for now. Even if the cardinals are inclined to roll the dice, they may hesitate about having to live with that bet for what could be three decades or more.

Nonetheless, he’s an impressive figure. Don’t count him out. To see him in action, pull up a chair and catch the Salt + Light profile below. He’s terrific.

Browse Our Archives