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Asia’s papal bet and nation’s president hail new pope

MANILA (UCAN) : Asia’s bet for pope, Luis Cardinal Tagle, was glowing in his praise and welcome for Pope Francis. On the day after his March 13 election, the archbishop of Manila called him an extraordinary person.

In thanking the millions of people around the world who prayed for the cardinals during the March 12 to 14 conclave, Cardinal Tagle said, “We never felt alone, even for a moment.”

Following the announcement of  Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio SJ as the new pope on the evening of March 13, Cardinal Tagle said he approached him to assure him of the support of the 90 million people from his Philippine homeland, who had expressed a strong hope and prayed hard that he himself would get the nod as the new bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church.

“He (Pope Francis) said, ‘I have high hopes for The Philippines. May your faith prosper, as well as your devotion to Our Lady and mission to the poor’,” Cardinal Tagle related.

Cardinal Bergoglio is the son of Italian migrants to the Argentine. His father worked on the railways, but the son proved to have been born with a powerful intellect, going on to university after school and gaining a master’s degree in chemical engineering.

As a Jesuit, he studied theology and later took out a doctorate from a university in Germany.

As a former superior of the Jesuits in Argentina, he knows firsthand the problems of living under a repressive military government and the human rights violations that go with it.

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he also understands the effect of widespread poverty on the people.

Archbishop José Palma, speaking as president of the bishops’ conference, welcomed the newly elected pope, saying he is as a known defender of traditional Church doctrine.

“I heard he is strong against contraception, against divorce, against all of these issues,” Archbishop Palma noted. “On the other hand, he is strong when it comes to social concerns.”

The new pope has been outspoken against abortion and same-sex marriage in Argentina.

He reportedly urged the clergy to tell people to protest against the ratification of a modified divorce law as it could seriously injure the family.

The president of The Philippines, Noynoy Aquino, who signed the controversial Reproductive Health Bill into law last month, which allows for free condoms to be distributed around the country for the first time, said his administration is eager to work with the Catholic Church “towards shaping a world in which each and every human being is allowed to live a life of peace, joy, and dignity.”

The president added that he hopes the election of Pope Francis will bring the promise of renewal in the Catholic Church, as it strives to fulfill its mission here on earth.

“We hope and pray that this will inaugurate a pontificate that will bear witness not only to the basic tenets of the gospel, but will also serve as a voice for peace, justice and charity in a world threatened by tension and armed conflict, poverty, uncertainty and loss of confidence in institutions,” Aquino said in a statement formally welcoming the new pope.

However, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles downplayed the sentiments of those among the Filipino people who had been hoping that Cardinal Tagle would be chosen as the new pope.

“Electing a pope is not a contest, much less a competition among nationalities,” Archbishop Arguelles said.

Father Marvin Mejia, assistant secretary of the bishops’ conference, said the Church needs somebody who is a good administrator and who can bring about changes, especially in the curia.

“We believe that Pope Francis can address that,” he commented.

Churches around The Philippines announced that all Masses on the day following the historic election of the first non-European pope for a millennium were to be offered.

‘I have high hopes for The Philippines. May your faith prosper, as well as your devotion to
Our Lady and mission to the poor’