MANILA, Philippines – The lone Filipino prelate invited to the Vatican's College of Cardinals believes there is a need for a much humbler, quieter Catholic Church, one that is made credible by its willingness to accept fault while remaining a bastion of faith.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle thanked Pope Benedict XVI for choosing him to be one of 6 non-European Roman Catholic prelates to be appointed as cardinals. The College of Cardinals is the elite body that advises the pontiff and elects his successor upon his death.
“I would like to thank the Holy Father for his trust and confidence not only in me but in the Church in manila and in the Philippines. I take this not only as a gift but also as a call for the Church in Philippines to take seriously our mission especially in Asia,” he said in a Radio Vatican interview.
Tagle, 55, is noted for his young, modern approach. In February, he openly urged the Church to tackle child-sex-abuse offenders rather than covering cases up, and has called on bishops to report rather than protect pedophile suspects.
In the interview, Tagle likened the Catholic Church in Asia to John the Baptist who is described as a voice “crying out in the wilderness.”
He said people’s sufferings and difficult questions are invitations to the Church to “be in solidarity with them and not to pretend we have all the solutions and all the answers.”
“They can resonate with the Church. They see a concrete face of God with a church that can be as silent as them, be as confused as they are and also in telling them we share the same situation of confusion and searching. It becomes a home for many, many people. It evangelizes the church,” he said.
He also noted that in the Gospel, the miraculous signs done by Jesus were not meant for self-affirmation or propaganda but to increase faith.
“I feel that it is also an invitation of Jesus for people to realize that even marvelous things that he does is not meant for self-affirmation, propaganda or to earn or win praise but it is for faith and if people don't see the true meaning of the sign that elicits faith, just be quiet. Just be quiet,” he said.
Tagle said being quiet does not mean staying silent and not contributing to the public debate. However, he also noted that the Asian culture is very particular about the mode of bringing the message.
“We are less conceptual and notional and we operate on feeling and sensing, perception. And so you might be saying the right things but people do not listen to you if the manner by which you communicate reminds them of triumphanistic, a know-it-all type of institution. They might be put off by this,” he said.
“Some parts of Asia I know the relative silence or calmness of the Church is interpreted as timidity or lack of courage. I say no. It makes the Church more credible in Asia,” he added.
Tagle also noted that accepting fault does not lessen the Church’s credibility but actually strengthens it. He recalled Pope John Paul II’s decision to seek forgiveness for the sins of the past during the celebration of the Great Jubilee in 2000.
“I know some people in the Church were not too at ease with that. They were worried about the credibility of the Church if we start pointing to our own faults in the past but I remember telling a group of theologians- they asked me how will this sit with Asia - well in our culture if someone accepts one's fault and asks pardon the moral standing of that person just shoots up and he is listened to and accepted,” he said.
Tagle will be joining other new cardinals from the United States, Lebanon, India, Nigeria and Colombia in a surprise consistory, the second to be held this year, on November 24.
Vatican watchers had not expected there to be another consistory until next year and the surprise announcement sparked concern that the 85-year-old pontiff's health may be worse than thought.
The consistory follows the death of several cardinals in recent months and will bring the number of those eligible to vote back up to the maximum of 120.
Cardinals must be under 80 years old to take part in a papal election.
The new cardinals will be the American James Michael Harvey, Lebanon's Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, India's Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Nigeria's John Onaiyekan, Colombia's Ruben Salazar Gomez and Tagle.
The news of a second consistory this year has raised concerns that the elderly pope has been hit particularly hard by his demanding schedule, by the child abuse scandals rocking the Church and by the betrayal of his former butler Paolo Gabriele.
Gabriele was sentenced this month to 18 months in prison for stealing secret Vatican memos.With a report from Agence France-Presse