Pope bypasses Filipino prelates

The Vatican has released ten minutes ago the names of twenty-two prelates that would be made cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in the consistory scheduled next month, and the two newly-appointed Filipino archbishops of cardinalate sees in the Philippines are conspicuously absent on the list.

Archbishop Jose Serofino Palma of Cebu, who was appointed in October 2010, has been bypassed for the second time. It was understandable that he was not made cardinal in last year’s consistory, since the Pope seemed to follow an unwritten rule which states that a new bishop of a cardinalate see should not be made cardinal until his predecessor has reached the age of eighty, perhaps in order to avoid according one diocese the unfair advantage of having two cardinal-electors. When Palma was appointed archbishop, his predecessor, Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, was still an eligible elector. But Cardinal Vidal would have turned eighty the week before next month’s consistory, which means that, this time around, Palma is already eligible. By not naming him as a prince of the Church, is the Pope demoting the Archdiocese of Cebu to a non-cardinalate see?

The other Filipino who has been bypassed is Manila’s new archbishop, Luis Antonio Tagle, the charismatic theologian who many observers have identified as a possible papal contender. Vatican commentators point out that the Archbishop Emeritus of Manila, Gaudencio Borbon Cardinal Rosales, would not turn eighty until August this year; and thus, per the unwritten rule of no two cardinal-electors for one diocese at the same time, the Pope did not give Tagle the red hat. But it must be pointed out also that the newly-appointed Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, gained the Pontiff’s nod despite the fact that his predecessor, Archbishop Emeritus Edward Cardinal Egan, has not yet turned eighty. The same is true with Archbishop Dominic Duka of Prague, a Dominican, whose predecessor, Miloslav Cardinal Vlk, is only seventy-nine years old.

Perhaps the reason Tagle was not given the red hat is not really the no-two-cardinal rule but the revelations regarding his involvement with the progressive School of Bologna, whose controversial liberal interpretation of the Second Vatican Council earned the ire of many Vatican conservatives. It maybe that the Pope has opted to make Tagle wait until the storm has died down, in a classic exercise of so-called Roman prudence. I have written extensively about the controversy regarding Tagle’s connection with the Bologna school, and the possibility of him not becoming cardinal this year, in a previous blog entry.

Aside from Palma and Tagle, also conspicuous is the absence on the list of Archbishop Jesus Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Santiago and Archbishop Damiao Antonio Franklin of Luanda, the leaders of some of the leading archdioceses in South America and Africa. Indeed, most of Pope Benedict XVI’s new cardinals are either Italian, European, North American or Curial officials. The only non-Western prelates who made it are the Indian Arhbishop of Syro-Malabar Church, an Eastern Syrian Rite church that is in full communion with Rome, and the Chinese Bishop of Hong Kong. Is the Vatican reversing the trend of making the College of Cardinals less Eurocentric and more international? Indeed, did the Pope really had a free hand in making this list, or is it really, as the scuttlebutt implies, a baby of Secretary of State Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, who apparently favors more Italian and Curial cardinals?

The notable omissions of Tagle and, most especially, Palma means that the Philippines, the world’s third largest Catholic country, will be left with no cardinal-elector this year, unless the Pope calls for another consistory, which is unlikely. Similarly, another major Catholic country, Colombia, will be left without a cardinal-elector. This would most likely upset many devotees in both countries.


14 thoughts on “Pope bypasses Filipino prelates”

  1. It’s interesting how I stopped caring about the Catholic Church ever since Pope Benedict XVI assumed the papacy. He just lacks charisma that one would expect from the leader of a faith. This development won’t help his popularity in any way. (>.>)

  2. If I were pope, I woudnlt appoint any Pinoy cardinals. They would just meddle with politics or solicit pajero from their favorite president.

  3. Interesting article. Your observation about Cardinal-designate Dolan being elevated to cardinal even as Cardinal Egan remains an elector until April 2012 really baffles me, and makes me wonder why Archbishop Palma was not created cardinal.

    (Incidentally, Cardinal Vidal will already be 81 come Monday, so he has lost his elector status for a considerable time now, which compounds the “Palma bypass” issue further.)

    Bypassing Tagle is rather understandable, because he was only installed last December 2011. It was the prudent thing to do, despite buzz among journalists covering the church beat that the pope holds Tagle in very high esteem.

    But let us not lose heart. Our country will reap its reward in due time, in God’s time.

    Considering that Archbishop Tagle is still young and has at least 25 years to spend before the mandatory retirement age, the speculation that Archbishop Tagle, an internationally-renowned theologian and frequent speaker in Eucharistic congresses and theological commissions, will likely be imported by the Holy Father to be part of the Roman Curia, may be possible.

    Rumors have it that Tagle will be named cardinal and will be made to warm the cathedra of Manila for a few years before being flown into the Vatican. If that happens, a new archbishop will take possession of the See of Manila. (Perhaps Archbishop Villegas?!)

    If this happens (and if tradition holds)… the Philippines will have a cardinal at the Roman Curia, an Archbishop of Cebu who will presumably be made cardinal soon, and a new Archbishop of Manila who will eventually be made cardinal.

    So in the mean time, pray, pray, pray ! 🙂

      1. Yes, I am JoeyV, but I am now with TV5 🙂

        I read that entry as well 🙂 I hope the on-going theological battle will not affect Tagle’s “career.” Personally, I don’t think it will. The pope would not have given his nod to appoint Tagle to the Archdiocese of Manila, the primatial see of the Philippines, if its occupant will only be steeped in controversy.

        However, we should still be on the look out for the actions of the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, who seems to be successfully maneuvering Vatican decisions in his favor. If he sees Tagle as a roadblock to his temporal governance of the Holy See, then this might pose a problem. (Word has it that it was Bertone who coaxed the pope to hold a public consistory for the creation of cardinals this month, despite the fact that it was still rather untimely. Many Vaticanistas were expecting a Christ the King 2012 ceremony, so this February 2012 consistory really came as big surprise. This consistory, analysts say, is meant to show Bertone’s detractors that he is very much in charge of the Roman Curia, as proven by the fact that many of the cardinals-designate in this batch are prefects or presidents of Roman dicasteries/departments, and not residential archbishops of overseas dioceses.)

        But then again, the pope is in charge and, at the end of the day, will make the ultimate and final decision with regard to the appointment of cardinals and bishops around the world 🙂

  4. Very interesting esp about movements to the Roman Curia. Makes me think and ask though: is the Philippines really ready with candidates to the Papacy? I have a practical concern about the prospect: is there a cardinal -to-be around us now who speaks/writes Latin fluently? It is the official language of the Church. All official Vatican documents are in latin. Then, how about at least three (3) more languages like Italian, Spanish, French apart from English (which is taken for granted as a given)?

    1. I think most priests know Latin. The language that a pope must speak is Italian. I’m not sure if Filipino cardinals can speak it. I think Cardinal Sanchez, who served in the Curia, must have known Italian. I’m not sure about Cardinal-elect Tagle.

  5. I think most priests and bishops, especially those who go to Rome often, can converse in Italian. I was in Rome recently and I overheard this Filipino archbishop (I forget his name) speaking to a Roman in Italian. Seminarians have (basic) Latin in their formation, else they won’t be able to read Church documents and other prayers as well as the mass. Elder prelates presumably can read Latin or have a sense of it, otherwise, they will just be speaking gibberish when concelebrating with the pope. During the canonization of Pedro Calungsod, Cardinal Vidal did pretty well in reciring te Eucharistic prayer in Latin. And I guess it is imperative for a cardinal-elector to know Italian because when he is elected pope, he is first and foremost the Bishop of Rome. It would be saf if he will not be able to communicate with his flock.

  6. I wanted to text his secretary to confirm I realized they left for Rome last Monday. I would assume he does speak Italian because of his international and Roman exposures. If he doesn’t, well, he’d better learn lol

    1. I noticed that he and Archbishop Villegas spoke English in the Synod, so I wonder how good their command of Italian is. Fluency in Italian is definitely among things cardinal-electors would look for in a pope.

  7. Hi. I just stumbled upon this blog and I was reading articles about Cardinal Chito and then I saw your inquiries regarding his linguistic skills. Erm, having known him since I was young (not personally tho, just a keen observation from the eyes of somebody who watched him go from being a priest to you know) I can say for sure that Cardinal Chito speaks Italian fluently, in part due to his very frequent Rome trips. I still have a copy of his 2001 mini-bio when he was made a Bishop of his former diocese which revealed that he can speak 7 languages fluently (French, Spanish, German and Latin including) though he perfectly keeps all those talents under wraps because of his infamous humility. And I still remember him sharing his experience on his Sunday TV Program about having to deliver a homily in French on some foreign country. As to personal eyewitnesses of the Cardinal’s multilingual skills allow me to share these links:


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