Friday, October 14, 2011

Pope Appoints Bishop Luis "Chito" Tagle, 54, as new Archbishop of Manila: A Brief Initial Analysis

With the appointment of Archbishop-Elect Tagle to the See of Manila, the appointment of the new Primate of the Philippines provides new possibilities in -- not just the Pearl of the Orient but -- the universal Church.

1.) THE THEOLOGIAN: First, American-educated Tagle is an international theologian with credentials on international and national doctrinal committees.  He worked with then-Cardinal Ratzinger and has recently worked with now-Cardinal Angelo Scola.  He served on drafting committees, too, on Vatican Synods.  The Pope must surely be familiar with Tagle's writings.

For those not in the know, Scola is considered a serious papible possibility.

2.) RELATIONS WITH PROTESTANTS: Second, Archbishop-Elect is familiar with both Anglican patrimonies and Lutheran theology.  Could the Holy Father be working on bridging even more -- especially after his visit to Germany -- with our separated brothers and sisters in the Reformation tradition?  The Pope recently told official Evangelical & Lutheran leadership that when he was asked to provide some symbol of compromise on the occasion of their meeting, the Holy Father refused saying that the Faith is not something that can be compromised.  This firm stance probably shocked Catholics more, but Protestants seem to respect this.  In fact, the President of the Evangelical bodies was present, and she said that she was "pleased" with the Holy Father's remarks.

Other commentators have been drawn to the Pope's humility in Germany.

The Holy Father can't do everything with each of the 40,000 different Protestant sects that came from Martin Luther, but he is strategic in being the Pope of Christian Unity.

He has reached out to the Anglicans (which in turns impacts Episcopalianism, esp. in the U.S.) with the Ordinariate.  He has reached out to the Orthodox.  There is greater awareness now than before of Eastern Catholic-Christianity among Latin Catholics.  He has reached out to the Society of St. Pius X, which is I dare say a schismatic group, by according to rumors offering canonical status as a Prelature.

The Pope reaches out.  Tagle's appointment signals that in a country where Catholics are reputed to hold fast to the Deposit of Faith while fitting in to their new environments especially the Filipino diaspora all over the world.  Australia, with ties to Anglicanism, geographically neighbors  the Philippines and the new Archbishop of Manila can be of assistance with Benedict's efforts in Oceania and the Far East on relations with mainline Protestantism.  Having been educated at the The Catholic University of America, Tagle knows Washington, D.C., and Protestant America and will have ties to the Filipino Catholics, the largest Catholic body after Hispanics, in the States.

3.) POLITICAL IMPACT (OR LACK OF IT): Third, the new Archbishop of Manila is more of a theologian and teacher than he is a secular politician.  The See of Manila has especially under Cardinal Sin had significant political-social-economic influence.  Tagle's appointment shows that the Holy Father is more interested in doctrine and teaching the faith than mere political ends.  The Pope wants teachers of the Faith....solid ones, of course, but Benedict is a teacher, so he'll look for teachers, not politicians.

4.) YOUTHFUL BISHOP WITH FUTURE POSSIBILITES: Fourth, Tagle is young and now provides Manila and the area with two to three decades of influence.  Two of those areas of influence not on the Manila radar pertain to China and Islam.  While I don't know Tagle's experience with Islam and China, Filipinos are natural and key players in relating to Islam and Sino-Vatican relations where bishop appointments come with aggression and strain at the moment.  His appointment seems to have more of a focus on building up the Body and focusing on making sure our own house is in order first.  His youthful energies could mean new initiatives and ideas in ways we haven't seen yet.

5.) THE POPE'S CONFIDENCE: Fifth, my thoughts turn to Tagle's work with Ratzinger or rather Ratzinger's familiarity with Tagle's international work.  Surely, Benedict knows what Tagle is capable of doing on international synods and commissions.  He knows that Tagle will not, pardon my bluntness, go off the deep end theologically and harm the faithful with any wilds ideas.  Tagle as a theologian will look to new ideas to bring the Gospel anew to the 21st Century, but he'll do it -- as he has at the international level -- in deepest communion with the Church's mind.

6.) LOVE FOR THE POOR: Sixth, there is authentic care for the poor in Tagle's intentions.  He said this explicitly in his opening remarks.  It seems that B16 knows that the new archbishop doesn't marry Marxism with care for the poor, a great temptation for modern theologians.

He'll relate to the common Filipino and to the common man.  Like most Filipinos, he has a nickname.  Americans and Westerners know that Filipinos have nicknames.  As such, the new archbishop "Chito" is one of us.

7.) HE SMILES: Lastly, the new Filipino primate smiles.

And he does so on camera.  His Excellency has a face that the public can connect with, which is so badly needed today.  In a media-savvy climate and in a land where Hollywood runs the show more so that elected officials, Tagle's primary task to preach Jesus Christ will have to connect to the new media. 

In fact, his predecessor Cardinal Rosales, when asked about his own legacy as Manila archbishop for several years said, "Forget about me."  The cardinal knew that being the Primate of the Philippines wasn't about him and also advised his successor to "preach Jesus Christ".  This, and only this, is the reason why bishops exist in the first place.

It is all for Jesus.  The new Archbishop smiles authentically when he talks about Jesus who sent him to Manila.

Lord, please guide your servant and bestow upon your chosen shepherd the gifts of the Spirit.  May he love the Church and be faithful to you.  May Mary Immaculate protect him under her mantle and bring all nations to Jesus Christ.  In his most previous and holy name.  Amen.

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