People before buildings, says Cardinal Tagle

Inday Varona-Espina

Posted at Dec 10 2019 01:30 PM

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle speaks at the ground-breaking and foundation blessing of the FABC Veritas Asia Institute of Social Communications in Radio Veritas Asia’s Quezon City compound on December 10, 2019. Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA—It is not buildings but people and formations that make up the strength of the Catholic Church, and those with the gift of listening are the biggest gifts of all, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle reminded clergy and laity involved in evangelisation on December 10.

“Having a beautiful building in itself does not guarantee evangelisation; it is the training and formation of people,” said Tagle, the new prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. 

In brief remarks at the ground-breaking and foundation blessing of the FABC Veritas Asia Institute of Social Communications (VAISCOM) in Radio Veritas Asia’s Quezon City compound, Tagle noted that many Catholic church properties are being sold around the world and some have been transformed into museums. 

Cologne Archbishop Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki was the other guest of honor at the event. 

“When I was a young boy, some of the most memorable catechetical lessons were learned under a tree,” Tagle recalled. “If I were asked where we had these catechetical lessons, I could not name any building. Children were gathered. We had cookies. We had candies. And we came to the lessons.”

The Vatican announced Cardinal Tagle’s appointment on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In his new post, the cardinal will oversee the church’s work in most of the dioceses in Africa, Asia and Oceania, which is around one-third of the world’s 4,000 dioceses, Vatican News reported.

Until he is replaced or his tenure ends, Tagle also heads Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of at least 165 Catholic charities around the world. He was elected in May this year to his second four-year term as president during the international organization’s general assembly in Rome.

'We need to listen'

Later, in his opening remarks to the Asian bishops’ meet with the theme, “Pastoral Communication in Asia Today: Challenges and Opportunities for the Digital Age,” the cardinal reminded church leaders that listening is a crucial communication skill.

“Evangelization is communication. God is a God who communicates, who dialogues. But He is also a God who listens,” Tagle said.

He urged the religious and the laity to nurture “the spirituality of listening, to God, to neighbors and to the signs of the times.”

“We are all in a hurry, rushing to say something, to issue a statement even when we have not heard yet. We have already something prepared without knowing what the question or statement is,” he said to laughter among senior clergy.

“Listening comes first,” Tagle stressed. “Many people are longing for someone and a community to listen. Even if you have no words, you communicate your presence, your compassion, your unity.”

He cited Pope Francis as a good example of a person who spreads the culture of person to person communications. The Pontiff, he noted, reaches out to people who symbolize a class or group that often faces discrimination to send a strong message of solidarity, even across religious divides.

While new savvy is needed to navigate the minefields of digital revolution and artificial intelligence, Tagle said the Catholic Church must hone other kinds of intelligence, like that needed to understand context.

Without this, communicators cannot collapse complex ideas to meet the demands of the digital age, he said. 

Relational intelligence, he added, will allow communities to avert conflicts before these erupt and increase the odds of quickly resolving those that do break out.

The Catholic church, Tagle said, is also in great need of “inspired intelligence of people who generate greater trust and confidence.

“In our world today, so much fear, suspicion and prejudice. We don’t know whom to trust,” said the Cardinal. “We need people who can generate that atmosphere of trust.”