Palace congratulates Tagle for promotion months after Duterte claimed cardinal-bishop was kicked out of Manila post

May 4, 2020 - 6:04 PM
Cardinal Tagle
Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle closes his eyes as he prays. (Undated photo from Interaksyon archives)

The Malacañang on Monday congratulated former Manila archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on his promotion as a cardinal-bishop, months after President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that the prelate was “removed” from his post for supposedly meddling in politics.

In a virtual press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque thanked Tagle for bringing honor to the country as he climbs the ladder of the universal Catholic Church in its base in Vatican City.

“Kami po ay binabati ang ating His Eminence Cardinal Antonio Luis Tagle sa kayang pagtatalaga bilang isang cardinal-bishop. Ito po ang pinaka-highest title ng isang cardinal sa simbahang Katolika,” Roque said.

“Ang tagumpay niyo po, your eminence, ay tagumpay ng buong sambayanang Pilipino. Maraming, maraming salamat po sa karangalan and congratulations,” he added.

Tagle’s promotion to the rank of a cardinal-bishop, the highest position in the order of cardinals of the Catholic Church, was made public late Friday.

He is considered the youngest to hold the position at 62-years-old.

Tagle is also the first Filipino to become the cardinal-bishop, making him the highest-ranking Filipino bishop in almost 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.

What is a cardinal-bishop? 

Cardinal-bishops hold the highest rank in the College of Cardinals, followed by cardinal-priests and cardinal-deacons.

Cardinals of this rank are “consulted by the Pope anytime individually or as a group, with regards to any question in the Church,” according to the Pontificio Collegio Filippino, the home of Filipino priests in Rome.

They also hold jurisdiction over a church in a suburb of Rome while working in departments of the Roman Curia or the central administration of the Church.

Cardinal-bishops likewise help the Pope in coordinating with all of the world’s cardinals.

It is also from these ranks that the Dean of the College of Cardinals is elected, an individual who “plays a key role in governing the Vatican” whenever the current pontiff dies or resigns.

Duterte vs Tagle

Tagle, who is currently the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples or Vatican’s main missionary department, was similarly congratulated by Filipinos following his promotion.

There were others, however, who couldn’t help but recall how the prelate was accused by Duterte of allegedly funneling funds for the opposition months before the former was promoted.

“Akala ko po ba nagalit ang Pope kay Cardinal Tagle sabi ng presidente? So fake news peddler talaga ang presidente?” a Twitter user asked and then tagged Roque and Sen. Bong Go’s accounts.

“Lmao pero Duterte talked s*it about Tagle ta’s ngayon maka-‘tagumpay ng sambayanan’… mas masahol pa sa mga di nag-co-contribute na groupmates e,” another online user commented.

A Filipino likewise said that Duterte “should apologize” for claiming that Tagle was “deposed as Archbishop of Manila due to mismanagement of funds.”

Federico Pascual, an op-ed columnist at The Philippine Star, noted that Tagle’s elevation in the Vatican “belies Duterte’s chismis” or gossip.

Last March, Duterte claimed that Tagle was supposedly booted out of his position as the Archbishop of Manila by Pope Francis for politicking.

“Kaya nagalit si Pope kasi nakialam sa politika. ‘Yan ang totoo diyan. Kaya ang ibinigay sa atin, officer-in-charge na lang. Wala tayong bishop. Tagle was out. He was investigated,” the chief executive said in a March 10 speech before the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.

“‘Yan ang open secret diyan sa… Eh ako Presidente, siyempre malaman ko. Kasi nakikinig ako sa lahat,” Duterte added.

In a statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines urged Duterte to focus on urgent issues of the country, such as COVID-19, instead of his “unfounded accusations.”

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, the vice-president of the CBCP, described Duterte’s remarks as “unbelievably ludicrous.”

Tagle was promoted by the pontiff in the position of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in December 2019. He left his post in Manila in February this year to fulfill his obligations that required him to be in the Holy See.

His appointment in the position marks the return of an Asian cardinal to the helm of the important department for evangelization and Episcopal nominations.

Tagle has previously spoken against the extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s bloody anti-illegal drugs campaign, urging the Philippine leader to “stop wasting human lives.”