MANILA - Filipino bishops gathered Sunday evening to bid outgoing Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle goodbye as he prepares to leave for his new position in Rome.
As more than 90 bishops from all over the country met for their plenary assembly, a farewell dinner was also held to honor the cardinal as the "national flag carrier" who carries the faith of the Filipinos to the world.
"We would like to tell the world that he is the gift of the Filipinos to the universal Church and to Rome," the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Archbishop Romulo Valles, said.
"We are sad. But I think that you will agree with me that one of the wonderful gifts that the Church in the Philippines (has) is in the person of Cardinal Chito."
The Vatican announced December last year that Pope Francis chose Tagle to lead the influential Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples.
CBCP Vice President and Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David recalled his time with Tagle when they were studying at the San Jose Seminary.
As students of philosophy, David said one of the things they always look forward to was the review classes facilitated by Tagle, who was one year ahead of him.
"Because he could simplify complicated thoughts. That was the rare gift of Cardinal Chito. His brightness seemed to brighten other people," David said.
Tagle admitted that he is still confused now that he is set to leave the country for his new mission.
He recalled how a moment he spent in a chapel "presenting this dilemma" made him realize that "the clincher is where can you follow Jesus—the poor, the crucified."
"So I really cried and cried there in the chapel. But there was peace... The cross was the main criteria in the end," the cardinal added.
As the gathered bishops toast to Tagle's success in his new position, they surrounded the cardinal, singing "You'll Never Walk Alone."
The Vatican has yet to announce Tagle's replacement as archbishop of Manila.
“Sa ngayon ay hinihintay pa ito at mismong ang Santo Papa ang maghahayag nito kung sino ang papalit sa cardinal. Maaari ding caretaker na muna ang mamumuno sa Archdiocese sakaling makaalis na ang cardinal,” said Rev. Fr. Roy Bellen, the spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Manila.
[We are still waiting as the pope himself would choose the cardinal's successor. It's also possible that a caretaker could be assigned to lead the archdiocese if the cardinal leaves already.]
In the Catholic Church, an apostolic administrator is usually assigned to lead a diocese or an archdiocese during "sede vacante", the period when there is no ruling bishop. The prelate acts as a caretaker of the diocese until the newly chosen bishop is named.