Some Filipinos appeal: ‘Pick a young pope’

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Monday, March 11, 2013

CEBU CITY -- Young, a good administrator, open-minded, transparent, deeply religious and, preferably, Asian.

These are the qualities some Cebuanos said they would like the new pope to have.

Cardinals gathered for their final day of talks on Monday before the conclave to elect the pope who will succeed Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.


Debate continued over whether the Catholic Church needs more of a manager pope to clean up the Vatican, or a pastoral pope who can inspire the faithful.

In Cebu, a church leader said an ideal pope would possess “the humility of Pope Benedict XVI and the zeal and fervor of Blessed Pope John Paul II.”

“He should have, more or less, a good grasp of the challenges faced by churches all over the world, from Europe to South America to Asia,” said Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.

Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle's fan
SHE’S A FAN.  Benedicta de Castro, 73, shows pictures of her with Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, which she carries all the time at the Archdiocese of Imus, Cavite Province. Cardinal Tagle, 55, one of the youngest cardinals elevated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in November last year, is the only Filipino cardinal who can vote and be voted upon for the next Pope.  (AP Photo)


The archbishop said the new pope also needs to be a good theologian and an effective communicator.

“Because this is the way he would tell the basic, the fundamental teachings of the church. He should also be a witness of a life that is beyond reproach. These are ideals,” he added.

In a separate interview, Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Julito Cortes said, “For me, the incoming pope ought to be deeply spiritual, anchored in prayer, a contemplative man in action. After all, a Pope is only an instrument of the Lord, and (he should) be sensitive to the leading of the (Holy) Spirit.”

“The pope must be an effective communicator of truths of our faith in a way that is able to reach out to our youth, and win back those who are disillusioned about what’s happening to the Catholic Church,” he said.

The controversy over Vatileaks, which involved the leaking of confidential Vatican documents by one of the resigned pope’s staff, shows there should be reform in the papal office, Cortes also said.

“The pope should be a strong leader, with firm determination to initiate urgent and necessary reforms,” he added.


Several cardinals were signed up to speak at the closed-door morning session on Monday, an indication that the prelates still have plenty to discuss before sequestering themselves Tuesday afternoon in the Sistine Chapel for the first vote.

If the leading names fail to reach the 77 votes required for victory in the first few rounds of balloting, any number of surprise names could come to the fore as alternatives.

Those include Cardinal Luis Tagle, archbishop of Manila, the Associated Press reported.

He is young -- at age 55 the second-youngest cardinal voting -- and was named a cardinal only last November. While his management skills haven’t been tested in Rome, Tagle -- who has a Chinese-born mother -- is seen as the face of the church in Asia, where Catholicism is growing.

Benedict XVI spent his eight-year pontificate trying to revive Catholicism from the secular trends that have made it almost irrelevant in places like Europe, once a stronghold of Christianity.

Clerical sex abuse scandals have soured many faithful on their church, and competition from rival evangelical churches in Latin America and Africa has drawn parishioners away.

In Cebu, parishioners said the leader of the Catholic Church should also have a heart for farmers, the youth and their concerns, but have a firm hand in dealing with sexual abuse committed by some priests.

Current issues

“The new pope should have a heart for the Third World’s suffering people, one who understands deeply global social injustice and the gravity of its impact on people,” said Estrella Catarata, Farmers Development Center Inc. (Fardec) executive director.

Going beyond the church’s traditional comfort zones, the new pope, she said, should also address land-grabbing by multinational corporations, food security and hunger, and climate change, among other current issues.

“The new pope should address squarely the issue of sex abuses of some priests and have the whole world know what reforms and sanctions the Vatican is doing about it,” said a member of the Catholic charismatic movement Bukas Loob sa Diyos, Gerry Sta. Ana.

“The pope should be not just saintly but should have administrative and management skills to run the papacy efficiently,” he added.

In an earlier statement, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, led by Palma, requested lay people, priests and nuns to pray for the guidance of the cardinals, as they elect the new pope.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had abdicated his positions as bishop of Rome and successor of St. Peter last month, saying he was no longer able to perform the functions of his office due to poor health.


It would be an advantage if the new pope “comes from an area that is a mediator between East and West, like Philippines, Central America and Central Europe,” said Bro. Bela Lanyi, an architect and a Society of the Divine Word (SVD) brother.

“For us SVDs, (Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal) Tagle would be one of the best (choices),” he said.

Clergymen, in separate interviews, hoped for a prayerful leader who will inspire people to return to the Church -- but one who is also forward thinking enough to canonize “modern saints” like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Blessed Pope John Paul II.

“The pope, as the Vicar of Christ, should have mainly two qualities: availability, meaning he should go around the world more, and approachability, meaning anyone can approach him,” said Msgr. Achilles Dakay, Archdiocesan Media Liaison officer and Archdiocesan Commission of Family Life chairman.

“There should be authentic interpretation of the traditions of the church,” Dakay added.

Leny Occasiones, Gabriela partylist-Cebu chapter director, said a pope who is open-minded, non-discriminatory and grounded is needed for the modern times.

“We need a pope that listens with an open heart and mind to what the faithful think; a pope who goes down to the grassroots level and sees what they need. We need a pope who does not discriminate on the basis of one’s sexual orientation,” she said.


She listed as priority issues reproductive health, the admission of women into the priesthood and a serious investigation and punishment of abusive priests.

In contrast, lawyer Lito Mahinay believes the next pope should guard church traditions.

He is a legal counsel for the Task Force for Family and Life Visayas Inc., which has questioned the legality of the Reproductive Health Law.

“The next Pope must be prepared for martyrdom. Inherent in his office is to preserve and protect the old, inflexible and immutable teachings of Jesus, the ultimate head of the Church,” he said.

“An attempt to veer away and compromise what is inflexible and immutable may be popular to the present generation but in the end (may become) a disaster to our faith and salvation of many,” he added.

The first puffs of smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney should emerge sometime around 6:30 p.m. (around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday in Manila). Black smoke from the burned ballot papers means no pope. White smoke means the 266th pope has been chosen. (With AP/Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 12, 2013.

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