NEW YORK – Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle was declared Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Fordham University in Bronx, New York.
Tagle is the first Filipino spiritual leader and non-Philippine president to have received the honoris causa — higher education’s most prestigious recognition given to eminent individuals or those with international reputations.
"Why am I being recognized, what for?" Tagle asked. "What have I done? Nothing really, not much. The president’s letter also explains that this is not just an honor for me but to recognize the Filipino people, the faith of the Filipino people. When I saw that, I said I’ll be more comfortable receiving this award.”
Tagle was given this honor for his moral leadership, advocacy for the poor and his efforts to further Catholicism.
Pope John Paul II appointed Manila’s spiritual leader to the International Theological Commission in the Vatican in 1997.
As someone who promotes social justice, the cardinal focused his acceptance speech on the plight of overseas Filipino workers.
“We can help them,” Tagle said. “We can help them bring their stories of pain, fear and humiliation to that of hope.”
Rev. Patrick Longalong of The Filipino Diocesan Apostolate said, “I think he is leading the Filipino community, in general, as a whole, where Pope Francis would like us to go to be more charitable, to be more compassionate.”
“I’m so proud and excited,” Nelsie Parrado said. “Then my dream is someday maybe he’ll be elected Pope. Who knows? He is so intelligent. He could be good Pope material.”
But the Filipino Cardinal made it clear that his being considered as Pope before Pope Francis was elected last year was mostly hype from the media.
“Thanks to you the journalists,” Tagle said. “It’s not the Cardinals talking about me, it’s the journalists, so thanks to you. One thing is clear to me when we entered the conclave. It was clear to me that our mission is to elect a new pope and not to have ourselves elected. I think I will maintain that.”
Manila’s 32nd Archbishop confirms that Pope Francis is planning to visit the Philippines soon.
“The Pope has already signified his intention, his desire to visit the Philippines,” he said. “So we’re waiting for the announcement of the date.”