MANILA - He may be a student of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, but as early as now, Manila's incoming archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula already clarified that he is different from his legendary mentor.
"Cardinal Sin is Cardinal Sin," said Advincula, who like his predecessor also hails from the Panay island.
"I am afraid I could not be as vocal as Cardinal Sin, although I have learned a lot from Cardinal Sin."
Advincula issued the statement in his first sit-down interview since Pope Francis named him as the 33rd archbishop of Manila. The Archdiocese of Capiz on Wednesday shared a video of the cardinal's conversation with Fr. Jose Arturo Emilio Arbatin, the spokesperson of the archdiocese.
Cardinal Sin was Advincula's teacher in Latin when he was in third year high school.
The late cardinal was also the one who admitted Advincula to the St. Pius X seminary in 1964 being the rector of the school. The incoming Manila archbishop shared that it was Cardinal Sin who persuaded the late Archbishop Antonio Frondoso to send him to Rome to study Canon Law.
Now, Advincula, 69, is set to occupy the same seat his teacher once occupied for almost three decades.
"Never in my wildest dream have I thought of becoming the archbishop of the first diocese in the Philippines. Also the second reaction was, I became afraid because I know that Manila is a very big diocese," the archbishop said.
Sin was one of the key figures during the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution that led to the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. His sharp criticisms of Marcos's martial law served as precursors to massive demonstrations that challenged the regime.
In 2001, Sin would once again find himself in the political spotlight as he supported demonstrations against then president Joseph Estrada, who was facing an impeachment trial due to alleged corruption. Once again, an uprising in Edsa supported by the late cardinal toppled a presidency.
"Natatakot po ako dahil I know my inadequacies and I believe Manila is a very challenging archdiocese... I think that is just an initial fear. But as I have said, I continue trusting in the grace of God and in the help also of the people who would be around me," the prelate said.
Like his predecessor, Advincula is set to face challenges in the political aspect of his new position. As the lead pastor in the capital, it is likely that he will have to deal with several political figures, including the president, and their policies.
The relationship between the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines and Malacañang has been shaken since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte, particularly with some statements he has issued against church leaders.
On numerous occasions, the president lashed out at bishops and priests who criticize the government's policies, mainly the deadly war on drugs.
Included among bishops who are critical of the Duterte government is the current apostolic administrator and auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Manila Bishop Broderick Pabillo.
Even Advincula's immediate predecessor Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, currently the prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, was attacked by the president. Duterte said the reason why Pope Francis transferred Tagle to Rome was because of his meddling in politics, a claim denied by leading Filipino prelates.
So how would the new Manila archbishop deal with this issue? Perhaps the clue lies in his episcopal motto "Audiam", which means "I will listen."
"I foresee to maintain an open line of communication with Malacañang," Advincula said.
Courtesy of Archdiocese of Capiz
STILL A SHEPHERD
True to his episcopal motto, the cardinal said he plans to go around and meet his new flock, although he admitted that this would be difficult due to the restrictions brought by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
"I will try to concentrate on the pastoral life of the people in Manila, so I plan to visit the parishes. Although I'm sad because this can only be done in a restricted way because of the pandemic," the cardinal said.
"So I want to look at first the situation in the entire archdiocese, although in a limited way. Because as a shepherd, I believe I can be more effective in addressing the needs of people if he knows the real situation or the condition of his flock."
Aside from the capital city, the Archdiocese of Manila also covers Makati, Pasay, Mandaluyong, and San Juan with approximately 3 million Catholics and 86 parishes.
The archdiocese is also the ecclesiastical province of 9 suffragans, including the dioceses of Novaliches, Parañaque, Cubao, Caloocan, Pasig, Antipolo, Malolos, Imus, and San Pablo. Although he will have no direct authority on these dioceses, Advincula will still have to collaborate with the bishops of these areas and preside over several matters of the Church.
Advincula said he also plans to engage in projects that would help the poor, as well as with the care and further development of his priests.
A CERTIFIED PLANTITO
It was in November last year when the Pope elevated Advincula as a cardinal, becoming the ninth Filipino "prince of the Church."
But amid titles and the prestige of his new position, Advincula said he is just a "worker in the Lord's vineyard."
But during his free time, like any normal person, he also enjoys several hobbies.
"I've always been an outdoorsy person," the cardinal admitted.
"I am a lover of nature so I am into mountain trekking. I am also into photography and into plants, especially I plant trees. I am fond of trees especially indigenous trees."
While many Filipinos became plant lovers during the pandemic, the prelate says he was already a certified "plantito" even before the lockdown.
"Kagaya ng ibang mga obispo, I am still a shepherd, although perhaps the playing field is changed from Capiz to Manila. But my role is still that of a shepherd. So I think what I should do is to try to do my best, that I will be a shepherd after the heart of Jesus, the good shepherd," Advincula said.