By Bro. Mon Gualvez –
On the feast of Immaculate Conception (December 08), Pope Francis appointed Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle as the head of Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples, a major Vatican department that coordinates and guides the Church’s missionary work.
The said congregation was established almost 400 years ago, in 1622, by Pope Gregory XV with the task of “transmission and dissemination of Faith throughout the whole world.” Administratively, it’s a Vatican office that oversees the work and help shape the churches of most of the dioceses in Asia, Africa and Oceania – the regions which are found one-third of the Church’s 4000 dioceses. The Pope’s appointment of Cardinal Tagle highlights his attention and is said to be an expression of his outreach to Asia, where two-thirds of the world’s population live today.
Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples, traditionally known by its old Latin name Propaganda Fidei, is responsible for the Church in mission territories. The head of Propaganda Fidei is often referred to as “the red pope” due to the tremendous influence it exercises, which has traditionally made it both politically and financially powerful in Rome and around the world.
Born in Manila, from a Catholic family of Chinese descent, Cardinal Tagle became a priest in 1982 and studied theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he earned a doctorate degree, writing his dissertation on the evolution of episcopal collegiality since the Second Vatican Council. He also studied in Rome for seven years and was appointed by Pope John Paul II of becoming a member of the influential International Theological Commission in 1997, which advises the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), formerly known as the Vatican Inquisition.
He became bishop of Imus, Cavite in 2001, and archbishop of Manila ten years later. Archbishop Tagle at that time was named a cardinal by then Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.
Pope Francis has long been known for his worldwide outlook, particularly to those immigrants seeking to escape war and violence in their own lands and looking for a new life in other countries. “Evangelization,” he once said, “takes place in obedience to the missionary mandate of Jesus: ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’.”
Similarly, Cardinal Tagle is said to be known as the “Francis of Asia”, a social justice oriented man who is best known for his advocacy for immigrants and the poor. He shares the Pope’s vision of a missionary church and his concern for the poor. Since 2015, Cardinal Tagle has been president of Caritas International, a confederation of 165 Catholic relief, development, and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories.
At the age of 62, this new appointment of Cardinal Tagle, who is known to be a gifted communicator and recognized for his passionate preaching, gives pride to many Catholic Filipinos and puts certain “Philippines’ moment” in global Catholicism. This is the reason why many are thinking that putting Cardinal Tagle into such a meaningful post signifies his status as a possible successor to Pope Francis.
In most of Cardinal Tagle’s masses, including that of the Shrine of Jesus’ Christmas Day Mass where he is the Main Celebrant, he has been very grateful to all those who show support and trust in him, and so he continuously asks for prayers for his new mission.