MANILA – Cardinal-elect Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo on Saturday said he plans to stay in the province following the announcement by Pope Francis of his elevation to the College of Cardinals.
"People expect that I might be transferred to a big urban diocese. But no, no, I prefer to remain in Cotabato," Quevedo said in an interview with radio dzMM.
Quevedo will be the very first Cardinal from Mindanao.
He explained, "There are dioceses that are traditionally places for cardinals like Manila and Cebu. These are what they call Cardinalatial dioceses."
"So if anybody is appointed to Cebu or to Manila, the expectation would be in 2 or 3 years he would be a cardinal. But for Mindanao there's no tradition, the first time and it happened to be Cotabato," he said.
Early this month, Pope Francis named Quevedo as one of the 16 new cardinals. He said he was in total shock after hearing the news.
"It was not mentioned to me at all even the day before. It was direct announcement through the Angelus of the Pope. I learned of it one hour after it was announced," he said.
Quevedo has been serving Cotabato for 15 years now. His first assignment as a bishop was in Kidapawan during the martial law years. After that, he was sent to Vigan and became an archbishop there for 12 years, then brought back to Cotabato.
"Mahirap kasi nobody would take Cotabato ata. Pero missionary ako, I grew up there, I grew up in Mindanao so I was happy to go back," said Quevedo.
He said he is aware of the challenges but added that he has good relationship with Muslims, Christians and indigenous groups.
"I was not worried about myself. I was never in fear of my life when I was there. Even as a bishop, I would go alone to the barrios and go through Muslim territories. I was never afraid because Muslims are friends of mine," he said.
He said he will continue with his work of reaching out to poor people, to take a look at the GPH-MILF peace negotiations until it's successful, and pursue interreligious dialogue. Although his focus remains the same, Quevedo said he will also act as an unofficial spokesman for Mindanao.
"But now there is an added responsibility kasi being a cardinal from Mindanao, even though I have no authority whatsoever in any diocese, the bishops expect me to speak up on certain issues that are common to all of us in Mindanao. And, I have to be very careful about what to say because I cannot say something the bishops are not in agreement with me," he said.
Quevedo, who is turning 75 in March, was supposed to write a letter of retirement as a bishop to Pope Francis.
"Pero ngayon I guess that is on hold for another 5 years. But I am going to write a letter just the same," he said.