MANILA - After eight years of serving as head of the Philippine capital's archdiocese, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle has left for Rome to assume his new post as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
The Archdiocese of Manila announced on Monday that the cardinal left the country on Sunday evening, and that Pope Francis appointed Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo as the apostolic administrator.
In the Catholic Church, an apostolic administrator is assigned to lead a diocese or an archdiocese temporarily, acting as a caretaker until the newly chosen bishop takes possession of the diocese or archdiocese.
"Work starts for me this week at the Congregation. It was an honor and blessing to have known you and have collaborated with you. I will always treasure my time with you," Tagle said in a statement.
"You can count on my prayers. Please pray for me and my mission as well. Let us pray for docility to the Holy Spirit as we continue our life as an Archdiocese and await the next Archbishop. Stay well and joyful!"
Tagle celebrated his last Mass at the Manila Cathedral on Sunday.
During the ceremony, the cardinal's coat of arms set on the marble at the central aisle of the historic church was unveiled.
"It has been a tradition in the Manila Cathedral that as an archbishop ends his term, his coat of arms is placed on marble at the central nave. This is a source of pride and joy for us since you became our archbishop," said Rev. Fr. Malicdem, rector of the cathedral and the cardinal's personal secretary.
"This coat of arms signifies that you will be remembered in all the prayers and Masses offered in this cathedral... This is our assurance that you always have a home with us in this cathedral."
Tagle's departure signals that the See of Manila is now in the period of "sede vacante", Latin phrase for "the seat being vacant."
In a circular also issued on Monday, Malicdem, who also serves as the archdiocese's chancellor, issued a prayer for the appointment of the cardinal's successor. The priest also started referring to Tagle as Manila's archbishop-emeritus.
There are currently 6 vacant ecclesiastical seats in the Philippines along with the Archdiocese of Manila: Diocese of Alaminos in Pangasinan; Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo in Sulu; Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose in Mindoro; Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay; and, the apostolic nunciature.
Tagle, 62, a native of Cavite, now heads one of the most powerful congregations in the Roman Curia, the central administrative body of the Catholic Church.
His congregation oversees the Church's work in most of the dioceses in Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
The cardinal begins his mission in the Vatican as Pope Francis is set to unveil his vision for the reform of the Roman Curia. Vatican experts expect the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization to be incorporated into the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples, making Tagle's department even more influential.
Known to many by his nickname Chito, the prelate was born to a family of devout Catholics. His father is a Tagalog native and his mother is of Chinese origin.
He studied theology at the Loyola School of Theology and earned his doctorate in Sacred Theology at the Catholic University of America.
He was ordained into the priesthood in 1982 under the Diocese of Imus where he would later serve as bishop for 10 years.
Pope Benedict XVI appointed Tagle as the 32nd archbishop of Manila in 2011. The former pope made him a cardinal during the last consistory of his pontificate, enabling him to attend the conclave that elected Pope Francis.
With Tagle's transfer to Rome, Vatican observers see this as Francis's move to surround himself with like-minded churchmen who will support his reformist stance and advocacy for immigrants and the poor.
A well-known Vaticanista, John Allen Jr., has also described Tagle's transfer to Rome as cementing his status "as a possible successor to Francis."