Opinion

Should we rally behind Tagle’s possible papacy?

John Gabriel Pabico-Lalu, Staff Writer|

Vatican, whatever story may it possess, is so influential that it has turned the Grammy Awards into a dwarf craving for attention.  The headlines last second week of February should be enough to prove the widespread dominance of the Roman Catholic Church. I say widespread dominance, because even The Manila Times, a business-oriented newspaper, placed the abdication from the papacy of Joseph Ratzinger, a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI, as a banner story.

The German pope announced his shocking resignation before some cardinals at the Apostolic Palace last February 11, a move that broke a 600-year tradition.  Gregory XII is the last pope to step down from the post, after being forced to do so in 1415.  In the case of Benedict, His Holiness pointed his “advancing age” as the reason behind this decision.  That being said, he encouraged the College of Cardinals to elect someone younger in the coming conclave, as the “Petrine ministry requires strength of mind and body”.

Hours after the resignation of Benedict, several questions and speculations regarding the pope’s health, the political tussles within Vatican, and the prophecy of St. Malachy which points to the near end of the world, circulated through social networking sites and online media outlets.

But when ‘sadness’ should have been the fitting, or at least, the primary emotion registered within the minds of Catholics, jokes flied from left and right.  Some were ecstatic in a good sense, and some were ecstatic in a bad sense.  Gladly, Filipinos chose the good sense: they were suddenly filled with hope and ambition.  Why is that so?

As usual, ‘Pinoy’ pride shines above all.  Several reporters within and outside Vatican kept an eye on Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as he is one of the favorites to succeed Benedict.

And of course, fervent Filipinos have been praying non-stop for this to be true.

Ambitious as it may seem, but having a Filipino as the next shepherd of the world’s largest religion is actually feasible.  We should never forget that it was also feasible decades ago with Cardinal Jaime Sin, had Pope John Paul II died immediately after the 1986 EDSA Revolution.

There is no doubt that Tagle has the charisma and the vigor of a John Paul II, the knowledge and conservatism of Benedict, and the humility and gentleness of a child. Even if the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has been beleaguered by political and moral issues, Tagle always finds a way to detach himself from CBCP’s fall from grace.  He effortlessly informs the public that his conservatism comes with open-mindedness.  He is open to criticisms, though he hasn’t drew a large number yet.

Skeptics, critics, and supporters alike of the Catholic faith agree that it is high time for the Vatican to prove that it is not a hierarchical organization.  Although John Paul II is the first non-Italian pope since 1523, by all means, he is still a European: a Polish, to be exact.  Benedict came, and for the second consecutive papacy, it was not an Italian pope who took over.

The problem is that Ratzinger is just another European.

The Vatican has been accused of being “Eurocentric”.  And for heaven’s sake, they should not grumble at the thought because they really are.  Most of the people moving around St. Peter’s Square and the Sistine Chapel are from Europe, whereas majority of the church’s followers does not live within the said continent.  Europe’s clergy and the faithful do not, and may never represent the rest of the world well enough.  These people, even in the midst of crises, are known to have a lavish life while more than half of the flock comes from third world countries.  I’m talking about people who do notworry about economic meltdowns, but about people who constantly begs for money to satisfy their hunger.

And Tagle is from a third world country.  These issues can actually build his path to Rome.  Should he be Benedict’s successor, Tagle would probably know how to deal with all the money that Vatican has.  If ever, his election will provide the millions of suffering Catholics a voice.  Aside from that, Tagle is media savvy; he has worked with Radio Veritas and with some television networks.  He is the typical ‘materially-poor’ yet ‘intellectually rich’ priest.  And yes, the Vatican wants their next pope to be media friendly and influential.

Still, feasibility has its limitations.  And it seems that it isn’t yet the time for a FilipinoPapa.

With the economy on the rise, the Philippines is no longer considered as a poor country; instead, it is a “third-world developing country”, which makes the odds for Tagle slimmer.  It is the truth: people from poor countries have more charm than those from progressive countries, thus making the clamor for an African or a Latino pope stronger than ever.

To be honest, Tagle is at the end of several shortlists created by analysts.  In some, he does not even appear.  One particular reason is that he was just installed as a Cardinal two months ago –– a quick rise to power is relatively impossible.  Also, there are more prominent candidates, such as Ghana’s Peter Turkson, Brazil’s Claudio Hummes and Joao Braz de Aviz, Honduras’s Oscar Andres Rodrigues Madriaga, Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and Italy’s Angelo Scola.  But who knows, a miracle might happen.

But should we let it happen?

The Vatican conclave and the Philippine electoral system suffers from the same problem –– votes are not generated based on qualities, ethics, or credentials, but on popularity.  Who says that cardinals are not affected by a candidate’s popularity?  Everyone figured out that Ratzinger would be pope after John Paul II died.  Cardinals can fall prey to what the world wants.  Since media is keen on popularizing the image and the relation of Peter Turkson’s name to the St. Malachy prophecy, he is likely to be pope.  Paddy Power, an online betting site, tells that there is 2/1 odd that Turkson will be Benedict’s heir.

In contrast, I feel that Tagle’s life might be better without the papacy.  Being Rome’s bishop is a daunting task; and even if we assume that Tagle is fit and up to the challenge, no one can ever imagine how excruciating the pain that the next pope will have to bear with.  That is considering the fact that he will face a lot of problems regarding homosexuality, contraception, female priests, and child abuse.

Tagle’s true nature lies with the term humility.  He is a person who would take the bus rather than ride a private car.  And because the pope is always a high-profile target, he would never get used to his job.  I also think, he will never be happy about wearing expensive clothes, unlike his predecessors.

The irony of the papacy being a hell of a job is simply overwhelming.  Corruption issues have plagued the Vatican, cardinals have been involved in sexual harassment cases, and Benedict hinted that power struggles has saddened him.  And if Tagle is nearly immaculate, we better keep him away from Vatican.  Let him vote in the coming conclave, but have him immediately return to Manila.

Wait, the CBCP is far worse than the former.  Send him to Vatican once more.

Photo credits to CBCP

Photo credits to CBCP

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