The hashtag “#iSupportTagle” or “#ISupportTagle” were used online after Cardinal Antonio Luis Tagle was reported to be among the leading candidates to succeed Pope Francis amid rumors of the latter’s looming papal resignation.
According to a London-based Catholic monthly publication, the former Manila archbishop is one of those being eyed by the pontiff to succeed him, along with two other potential candidates.
The two others are “conservative canon law expert” Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő and Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the current Vatican Secretary of State, Catholic Herald reported on August 5.
“On the other hand, a Pope from the developing world – such as the Philippines’ Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle – would be hailed by liberals, given the changing demographics of the Church,” the report said.
The report also quoted American weekly magazine Newsweek, which said that Tagle “is viewed as a top papal contender thanks to a series of promotions that make Francis’ esteem for him clear.”
Catholic Herald additionally noted that the Filipino cleric has been dubbed as “Asian Francis” and is “seen as representing the Church’s progressive wing,” similar to how the Holy Father is perceived.
Veteran Vatican analyst John Allen Jr. said that the “Asian Francis” tag is due to their similarities in terms of attitude and characteristics as individuals.
“Francis clearly likes what he sees in the popular Philippine prelate, who at 56 is the fourth-youngest cardinal in the world. The pope recently appointed Tagle one of three co-presidents for a critically important summit of bishops in the fall. Francis also reaches out informally,” he wrote in 2015.
Talks of Tagle’s possible candidacy to become Pope Francis’ successor gained buzz among fellow Filipinos following the reports, with the launch of the hashtag “#iSupportTagle.”
“It’s time for a Pinoy pope. LET’S SUPPORT CARDINAL TAGLE,” a Facebook page of a news site said, adding the hashtags “#iSupportTagle” and “#PinoyPope” in its post.
“Inaaanyayahan po ang bawat Pilipinong Kristiyanong Katoliko na suportahan natin si Cardinal Tagle na maging unang Pilipinong Santo Papa ng Simbahang Katolika. I-viral natin ang #ISupportTagle sa sosyal mediya. Game na!” another Facebook page said.
“#Support Cardinal Tagle. God bless the Philippines,” a Pinoy commenter said.
Tagle’s appointment to the Vatican
Last June, Tagle was recently appointed by the pope to become one of the 22 members of the Vatican City’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments.
The pontiff also appointed the Filipino cleric to the Congregation for the Eastern Churches in 2021, as well as to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See—which operates like the Vatican’s central bank.
Tagle initially made waves when Pope Francis assigned him to head the Vatican’s main missionary department, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, in 2019.
The designation placed the Filipino cardinal closer to the pope, according to Henrietta de Villa, a former Philippine ambassador to the Vatican.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said that any bishop or priest can become the next pope.
“May kasabihan diyan tungkol sa conclave and I quote ano… ‘Anyone who enters the conclave a pope, exits it a cardinal,'” Father Jerome Secillano, CBCP spokesperson, was quoted as saying.
“So meaning to say, kapag ikaw ay very popular na at kinikilalang kandidato bilang maging Santo Papa eh pagtatapos ng conclave, lalabas ka na cardinal ka pa rin dahil hindi ka nahalal. So it’s all up really to the voting members of the conclave,” he added.
‘No problem’ with changing
Pope Francis has recently hinted at stepping down from the papacy after returning from a penitential visit to Canada last month.
“I don’t think I can continue doing trips with the same rhythm as before,” the 85-year-old pontiff said before.
The pope has been using a wheelchair, a cane or a walker for the past few months due to knee pain caused by a fracture and inflamed ligament.
While he has denied resigning soon, Pope Francis also said “there is no problem” with the changing of popes, referring to his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI who became the first pope in 600 years to resign instead of rule for life.
“I think for having taken the first step after so many centuries, he gets 10 points,” Pope Francis said.
“The door is open. It is one of the normal options. Up until today, I did not use that door. I did not think it was necessary to think of this possibility but that does not mean that the day after tomorrow I don’t start thinking about it,” he said last month.
At the start of his papacy, Pope Francis said he would like to see the resignation of popes be normalized. He later said that he had a feeling his pontificate would be “brief.”
Pope recently appointed a nurse from the Vatican’s health services to become his “personal medical assistant,” which the Catholic Herald said is an “entirely new role” that “could be a further sign of a looming papal resignation.”