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Will we have a Filipino pope?

HONG KONG (Mabuhay) : “Pope Benedict XVI’s renunciation of the ministry as bishop of Rome on 11 February 2013 came as a surprise,” the archbishop of Manila, Luis Cardinal Tagle, said in his official statement on February 12.

“The announcement also brought sadness to us,” he continued, likening the people of God to children clinging to a father as he bade them farewell.

“But sadness gives way to admiration for the Holy Father’s humility,” the cardinal said of the man with whom he worked during his younger days at the International Theological Commission in Rome and who appointed him archbishop of Manila, as well as finally elevating him to the ranks of cardinal in 2012.

He described the surprise action of Pope Benedict as an expression of his desire to promote the good of the Church.

“We know that the papal ministry is not an easy task,” Cardinal Tagle said. “So we thank Pope Benedict XVI, who was elected pope at the rather advanced age of 78, for selflessly guiding the Church these past eight years with his teaching and gentleness.”

The archbishop of Manila invited people to pray for the pope during his last days as the bishop of Rome, as he prepares himself for a life of service to the Church through prayer.

However, a different kind of enthusiasm has taken over The Philippines, with people excited about the prospect of a local boy being the first Asian to sit in the Chair of Peter in the Holy See.

The media has been bubbling with the prospect of Tagle for Pope, as Cardinal Tagle has long been regarded as a possibility for the first Asian head of the worldwide Church.

However, cooler heads in the shape of his predecessor as archbishop of Manila, Guadencio Cardinal Rosales, as well as Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi and Archbishop Oscar Cruz are more circumspect.

Cardinal Rosales said that at the age of only 55, he could be considered a bit young, although Pope John Paul II was only 58 when he was elected to the top job in 1978.

“It is not realistic. You need a miracle for him to be elected pope,” Archbishop Cruz was quoted by Rappler.com as saying.

Archbishop Legaspi added, “It would be difficult for him to be elected. While it is the belief that the Holy Spirit guides the cardinals in the papal election, the Holy Spirit works through people. In the Church there is also politics.”

He also pointed out that Cardinal Tagle was not always all that popular in his former diocese of Imus, and regarded as a bad administrator 

Daniel Victoria, a lay leader from Imus went so far as to say that if by some miracle the cardinal was elected, he believes that the prediction of St. Malachy that the end of the Church is near may be a likely reality!

However, he added that on the plus side he is honest and not corrupt, inspiring, sincere and an extremely holy person.

A youth programme coordinator from Novaliches, Roselle Cortes, expressed the same sentiments as Cardinal Tagle, adding that despite the surprise of his announcement, life must still go on.

“Since our Church is a living one, we acknowledge that the leadership is subject to change,” CBCP News quoted her as saying. “In this Year of Faith, we are still called to live as Catholics, hoping and praying that everything happens for a purpose.”

Milarie Babia, from the Institucion Teresiana Youth, was more straight forward in her comment, noting that the pope is just admitting that he can no longer perform the tasks demanded of him because of old age and ill health.