On Cardinal Tagle, The Papacy and The Conclave

As of yesterday, the Conclave of Cardinals to select the next Pope has begun. From the time that Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the Papacy there has been much speculation about who would be the next Pope. With the emergence of Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle’s name as one of the frontrunners for the position, so many Filipinos have become excited about the possibility of him becoming the next Pope.

Being a Filipino and being from Cavite like Cardinal Tagle, I was very happy to hear that he was one of those who people say could be Pope. Just the recognition from the world that one of ours, a “kababayan,” has shown promise to become a leader of all Catholics in the world fills me with a sense of pride that I can’t really explain. The goose bumps I got upon hearing his name being mentioned were just unbelievable.

Of course, there are many Filipinos who have become very emotional and -- for lack of a better term -- overly passionate about wanting him to become Pope. Many have complained that a lot of our fellow Filipinos have been hoping for Cardinal Tagle to be Pope just because of how popular he has been with the media and how he has become noticed all over the world since this Papal vacancy was announced.

But the thing is I don’t think we should be overly passionate about it. This is not a popularity contest nor is it something that we will be voting for. Yes, we are proud, but we cannot lead ourselves to believe that the popularity factor alone is enough. Besides, it is not our choice but the choice of the Cardinals in the conclave. These 115 Cardinals will not have communication with the outside world while they make their decision. Their decisions will be based on more factors than just popularity.

Catholic or not, we should pray that these Cardinals will make the right decision in choosing the next leader of the Catholic world. No matter what people say or think, the Pope is an important person not just in the Catholic world -- he is a world leader in his own right. We should simply pray that the best person, Filipino or not, will be chosen to lead all Catholics in the years to come.

What do I think of Cardinal Tagle possibly becoming Pope? I personally would not mind. Like what many have said, he is someone who has emphasized on the need to reach and engage people in their faith and has used social media as a means to reach more people in order to spread the word of God. I actually follow him on Facebook and he is very active in that (which I greatly appreciate). As far as I can tell from the things he has shared in social media, he is a very intelligent and humble man who is passionate about sharing the word of God. I have encountered him personally because he is friends with my cousin who is also a priest.  Like many who have met him, I can attest to that charm and presence that makes me believe that this is a very special man.

I believe that although people think that his youth and inexperience in the Vatican might work against him, I think that is actually his advantage. As someone younger than most Cardinals, he can serve as Pope longer. He can reach the youth more because he is open to the modern means of reaching the youth. Some say his youth makes him more liberal compared to other Cardinals but I think it is also that liberal and more modern way of thinking that can be useful to the Church in these times.

If we were to look back in Philippine history, the first president of our country was also from Cavite. He was also very young when he was elected. It would be amazing if the first Asian Pope was to come from Cavite as well and also for him to be elected young for the position.  Although I have to admit that if he did get elected it would be weird getting used to his Papal name because to me (and most likely, the rest of the country) he will always be Cardinal Chito Tagle.

Do I think he will actually become Pope? I am not going to hold my breath. There are 115 Cardinals. Even if he is one of the top 10 contenders, there are still so many factors involved. A majority of the Cardinals are from Europe -- I would not take it against them to choose one of their own. There are more contenders who have had more Vatican experience compared to Cardinal Tagle, who was named only in November 2012 (not even a year in it when you think about it).

As I mentioned earlier, his youth may also work against him. The more mature Cardinals may not prefer the younger, more liberal position of Cardinal Tagle. I think that is something many of us Pinoys would have to accept.

I believe that if he becomes Pope, it would be because God has really meant for him to be one. After all, since he became Priest in 1982, he has jumped to Bishop in 2001, Archbishop in 2011 and Cardinal in November 2012. He is rising pretty fast. It could be that this is really what God has planned for him. Still, God’s plans could be for something else.

If it doesn’t happen now, maybe it will in the future. We don’t know for sure. For me, just knowing that someone from home was considered is special enough. If he gets to be more than that it would be even better but it would not be big deal either if he does not get chosen. Either way he is a man with a promising future in the Catholic Church – that is something which I do not doubt.

For now I will wait with bated breath as the Conclave makes their decision. The first sign of black smoke was shown already, which means they had voted but had not elected a Pope yet. I don’t know how long this will take but it really is very exciting.

I have this thing I tell my mom about wanting to have my marriage officiated by my cousin and Cardinal Tagle one day but if he became Pope that would not happen.  If only for that reason, I'd be OK with him not being Pope.  I'm kidding...although if he does do that for me when I get married that would be really cool too (someone remind me to talk to my cousin about that).

Photo Source: Philippines for Gold

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