Yesterday Pope Benedict announced the names of six new cardinals. One of them is Archbishop Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle of Manila, known to all as 'Archbishop Chito'. Filipinos rarely use their proper names and it is possible to know someone for years without knowing his baptismal name, as I have discovered.
The other new cardinals are Archbishop James Michael Harvey, Prefect of the Pontifical Household (from the USA), His Beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites (Lebanon), His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars (India), Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja (Nigeria) and Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez, Archbishop of Bogotá (Colombia).
A young Father Tagle meeting Pope John Paul II and the then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI
I met Archbishop Tagle once, in February 2003, at a meeting of priests organised by Worldwide Marriage Encounter. At the time he was Bishop of Imus, just to the south of Manila, a position to which he was appointed in 2001. During his talk to us the young bishop was commenting on a then recent survey of the religious beliefs of young Filipinos. What he was predicting would happen within twenty or thirty years - their falling away from the faith - was what had been happening in Ireland.
On 13 October last year Pope Benedict appointed Bishop Tagle Archbishop of Manila to succeed Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales who was then 79. I learned later from the Missionaries of Charity who have a house they use for retreats of their own Sisters in the Diocese of Imus that late on the afternoon of 13 October Bishop Tagle came and asked if he could celebrate Mass in their chapel. He started Mass at 6pm and at the end told them he had been appointed Archbishop of Manila. The official announcement had been made in the nunciature in Manila at 6pm.
The new cardinal has an international reputation as a theologian and was still giving classes while Bishop of Imus. He spoke at the International Eucharistic Congresses in Quebec City in 2008 and in Dublin this year.
Cardinal-elect Tagle is totally at home in this digital continent, as Pope Benedict has called it, the world of modern communications. He has a regular Sunday TV programme, The Word Exposed, which is also available on YouTube. Here, in a programme broadcast some months ago, he speaks about St Pedro Calungsod, a young Filipino catechist-martyr whom Pope Benedict canonised last Sunday.
Collect for the Mass of San Pedro Calungsod
All-powerful and eternal God,
you made Saint Pedro faithful in the preaching of the Gospel
even to the point of shedding his blood.
By his merits and intercession,
grant that we may also be strong in faith to persevere until death.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.Amen.
May Cardinal-elect Tagle, like San Pedro, continue to be faithful in preaching the gospel, even to the point of shedding his blood, if that may be ever necessary, something symbolised by the red he will wear.