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An Asian Pope?

News » Lifestyle


Date: 8th March, 2013

Image: Cardinals



As the Roman Catholic Church prepares to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, speculations are reaching fever pitch: Will the Papal Conclave look beyond Europe?In the secretive world of the Vatican, there is no way to know who is in the running, and history has yielded plenty of surprises.

John Thavis, a Vatican analyst and author of “The Vatican Diaries,” said the selection of Polish-born John Paul II in 1979 shows the “unthinkable” can occur once the cardinals are closed off in the conclave. At press time, the intensity of speculations surrounding the possibility of an Asian Pope is reaching a crescendo. And the Cardinal at the centre of the speculation storm is Philippine’s Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.

According to Associated Press’ Jim Gomez, “Philippine’s Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle is easily Asia’s most prominent Roman Catholic leader. With a folksy charm, he knows how to reach the masses. He sings on stage, preaches on TV, brings churchgoers to laughter and tears with his homilies. And wait for it - he’s on Facebook!”

But Cardinal Tagle’s best response against the tide of secularism, clergy sex abuse scandals and rival-faith competition could be his reputation for humility. His compassion for the poor and unassuming ways has impressed followers in his homeland, Asia’s largest Catholic nation, and church leaders in the Vatican.Tagle’s rising star has opened a previously unimaginable possibility: An Asian pope.

The Filipino prelate’s chances are considered remote, as many believe that Latin America or Africa - with their faster growing Catholic flocks - would be more logical choices if the papal electors look beyond Europe. But even the hint of papal consideration has electrified many in the heavily Catholic Philippines, where past pontiffs had been welcomed by millions with rock-star intensity.

“It’ll bring such immense glory to us and our country,” said Leo Matias, one of several waiters at a Chinese restaurant in Manila’s suburban Quezon City who served dinner to Pope John Paul II when he visited in 1995.The restaurant has displayed the set of spoon, fork, table napkin, water goblet and knives — still unwashed after the pope’s meal of grilled fish and fried shrimp.

The talks surrounding Tagle have been fueled by prominent Vatican experts, who see in the boyish-looking cardinal the religious zest, stamina, charisma and communications skills that could energize the church facing crises on many fronts.

“There are people, even Vatican officials here, who have whispered to me, ‘Tagle, he’s the man,’” Vatican analyst Thavis told The Associated Press. But when asked about the papal buzz, Tagle demurred: “Only a speculation.”

“He’s an effective communicator and missionary at a time when Catholicism’s highest internal priority is a new evangelization,” John Allen, a Rome-based analyst, wrote for the National Catholic Reporter.”Tagle incarnates the dramatic growth of Catholicism outside the West, putting a face on the dynamic and relatively angst-free form of Catholicism percolating in the Southern Hemisphere,” he said. “He would certainly be a symbol of the church in the emerging world, but given his intellectual and personal qualities, hardly a hollow one.”

Still, Tagle’s relative youth - at 55, he’s the second youngest among the cardinals — could be a liability. Cardinals could be reluctant to risk giving the reins of the Vatican to someone who could reign for decades.


Article Credit: The Leadership News

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