MANILA - After being informed that Pope Francis has appointed him to what is considered the top ecclesiastical seat in the Philippines, Manila Archbishop-elect Jose Cardinal Advincula admitted that he could not help but feel afraid as he was overwhelmed with his new assignment.
Speaking with Church-run Radio Veritas on Friday, Advincula said this is his first appointment to a highly-urbanized area.
"Ang naramdaman ko when I was told by the nuncio that the Holy Father has appointed me na archbishop of Manila, 'yung takot kasi that will be my first time to be assigned sa isang highly urbanized area, ang Metro Manila, which is the capital of the country," the cardinal said.
"I know it is very challenging assignment and very overwhelming but because this is the will of God and of the Holy Father then by obedience I have to accept."
[When the papal nuncio told me that I was appointed by the Holy Father as the archbishop of Manila, I was afraid because it's my first time to be assigned in a highly urbanized area like Metro Manila, which is the capital of the country.]
The Vatican announced on Thursday that the pontiff has chosen Advincula to lead the archdiocese vacated by former archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in 2019. Tagle is now based in Rome as part of the Pope's Cabinet.
A native of Dumalag, Capiz, Advincula will now lead an archdiocese with approximately 3 million Catholics in key cities in the capital region, including Manila, Makati, Pasay, Mandaluyong, and San Juan.
The Archdiocese of Manila is also the ecclesiastical province of 9 suffragans, including the dioceses of Novaliches, Parañaque, Cubao, Caloocan, Pasig, Antipolo, Malolos, Imus, and San Pablo.
Despite the overwhelming task ahead of him, the cardinal said as a shepherd of the Church, it is important for him to share the vocation which he has received.
"Having been chosen by God to be one of his ordained ministers is already a gift for me, a gift not to be kept for myself alone but this is also a gift that should be used by me for the service of the people of God," Advincula said.
In a CBCP News report, the cardinal also asked for prayers as he prepared to embark on his new pastoral ministry.
"I take this blessing not only for myself but also for the faithful of the Archdiocese of Capiz and of course for the entire Philippines," he said.
"I am asking the faithful and the religious of Capiz to pray for me as I also pray for everybody."
CBCP president Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles congratulated Advincula's appointment as the 33rd archbishop of Manila.
"We wish the archbishop-elect God’s abundant blessing in his new mission and offer him our continued prayers and support," Valles said.
Advincula, who is turning 69 this March 30, has been serving as the metropolitan archbishop of Capiz since 2012. Prior to this post, he also served as bishop of San Carlos for 10 years.
It was in November last year when the Pope elevated Advincula as a cardinal, becoming the ninth Filipino "prince of the Church." However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the archbishop was not able to travel to Rome to attend the ceremony.
His appointment to the Sacred College of Cardinals was a surprise back then, since his current position as the archbishop of Capiz was not a cardinalatial seat.
Usually, archbishops from the Archdiocese of Manila and Cebu, among the largest Catholic territories in the Philippines, are appointed cardinals.
But Advincula's transfer to his new role is consistent with Francis' style of choosing cardinals and bishops from what he called the "peripheries."
According to CBCP, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles John Brown was scheduled to visit Capiz on May 28 to bestow the “red hat” and the cardinal’s ring upon Advincula.
Throughout history, the archbishop of Manila has been an influential figure in Philippine affairs, including the late Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, who was one of the key figures in the People Power Revolution in 1986, which led to the ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Advincula will face several major issues as he takes the helm of the archdiocese, including restrictions in church attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tension between the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines and the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, and the year-long celebration of the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the country.
There is still no announced date for his official installation as the archbishop of Manila. But Canon Law dictates that if the bishop-elect was already consecrated, he must take canonical possession of his new diocese within two months "unless he is prevented by a legitimate impediment."
Until Advincula is installed, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Manila's auxiliary bishop, will remain in his position as the apostolic administrator or the caretaker of the archdiocese.