MANILA - From top Catholic Church leaders to lay faithful on social media, prayers poured in for Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and former archbishop of Manila, after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.
In a circular released on Saturday, acting president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David appealed to Filipino bishops and diocesan administrators to include Tagle in prayers and daily Mass intentions so that "he can resume his important ministry for the universal Church."
David noted that so far there have been five Filipino bishops who contracted COVID-19, two of them already passed away: Imus Bishop Emeritus Manuel Sobreviñas and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz. Meanwhile, Manila Archdiocese Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo and Caloocan Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez have fully recovered.
In an interview with Church-run Radio Veritas, Pabillo appealed to people to continue praying for the cardinal. He also expressed hope that Tagle would use this time for rest and reflection.
"Samahan natin siya sa ating panalangin. Hindi po natin alam kung saan siya naka-quarantine pero alam naman natin na siya ay nasa mabubuting kamay," Pabillo said.
"Maipapayo natin na to take it easy. Hindi naman siguro malala kasi asymptomatic naman siya. Ibig sabihin malakas naman ang kanyang immune system kaya he can take it and take this time as panahon ng pagpapahinga. Baka marami siyang trabaho. Ngayong quarantine mapipilitan siyang magpahinga, kaya it also is an opportunity to rest and to pray."
[Let us accompany him in our prayers. We do not know where he is quarantined, but we know he is in good hands. My advice is for him to take it easy. His condition is probably not that serious, because he is asymptomatic. It means he has a good immune system that is why he can take it and take this time as a period to rest. Maybe he has a lot of work. Now that he is under quarantine, he'll take a pause and take this as an opportunity to rest and pray.]
Cotabato Archbishop Emeritus Orlando Cardinal Quevedo said he will offer all his Masses and rosary prayers for the healing of his fellow cardinal.
"I’ve been praying for you since last night . . . May our loving God of mercy and compassion grant you a speedy and full recovery," Quevedo said in his message for the cardinal that he sent through Radio Veritas.
Meanwhile, Kidapawan Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, who is also the national chairperson of Caritas Philippines, urged all Filipinos to offer 10 Hail Marys for Tagle's recovery.
Within minutes after the announcement of Tagle's condition, Filipino Catholics took to social media to offer prayers for the former Manila archbishop. Official social media accounts of various dioceses and religious groups also posted messages of support and ardent prayers for the cardinal's speedy recovery.
In a statement on Friday, Matteo Bruni, the director of the Holy See Press Office, said Tagle tested positive for COVID-19 with a pharyngeal swab carried out upon the prelate's arrival in Manila.
Before this, Bruni said the prelate already had a COVID-19 test in Rome last September 7 where he tested negative, which was why he was allowed to travel back to Manila for a short break. Officers of the Roman Curia are allowed a month of vacation during the summer.
Tagle has been working in Rome as part of the pope's Cabinet after vacating his post as archbishop of Manila in February.
The cardinal, who is also the president of Caritas Internationalis, is the first head of a Vatican dicastery to test positive for the virus. Based on a bulletin from the Holy See Press Office, Tagle had an audience with Pope Francis last August 29.
Last March, the pope's vicar for Rome Cardinal Angelo De Donatis also tested positive for coronavirus.