Cardinal Tagle: New pope will reduce secularism-A A +A
Friday, March 22, 2013
MANILA — The Philippines' top churchman said Thursday that Pope Francis' acts of reaching out to the masses would strengthen a Roman Catholic Church endangered by secularism but hoped security issues won't stymie the new pontiff's refreshing openness.
Three Philippine cardinals who witnessed the installation of the Argentine pontiff in the Vatican returned home and heaped praise on the pope's humility and down-to-earth ways, reflecting the stunning welcome Francis has received within and outside the church.
Francis, the first non-European pope since the Middle Ages, has thrilled many in his first days as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics by wading into crowds at St. Peter's Square to shake hands and eschewing an armored limousine for an ordinary car to pick up his bags at a downtown hotel.
While the papal outreach has delighted many, it has sparked security worries.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle described how Vatican Swiss Guards with him reacted with shock when they watched on television how Francis plodded into a crowd after celebrating Mass last Sunday at a Vatican church.
"I was watching it on TV with some Swiss guards and I could see the reaction was, 'Oh no, no, the pope is going ...'" Tagle said, adding that he admonished the security men to calm down.
But he acknowledged that security had to be bolstered around popes in the past following security breaches, including a 1981 assassination attempt by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca that wounded John Paul II at St. Peter's Square.
Francis's efforts to reach out to the masses, especially the impoverished, come at a time when the Catholic church faces epic challenges, including a tide of secularism, he said.
The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, chose the name Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi, the humble friar who dedicated his life to helping the poor. He inherited a Catholic church beset by clerical sex abuse scandals, internal divisions and dwindling numbers in parts of the world where Christianity had been strong for centuries.
"He knew how to reach out to people. He does not look at the ranking," Tagle said in a news conference at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport. "I think one unique gift that he will bring is personal encounters, which are really important for the church."
During meal time with other cardinals after being elected pope, Francis stood and approached Tagle to relay the well wishes of a Filipino priest, a Rev. Catalan, working for the Catholic church in Argentina, the pope's homeland, where he spent nearly his entire career before he rose to the papacy.
"He approached me and said, 'OK, I have relayed his greetings so that I obeyed Father Catalan,'" Tagle said, expressing amusement at a "pope obeying a priest."
Former Manila Archbishop and Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales said the new pope's humility and simple lifestyle preceded his papacy and were well known in Argentina, where he lived in an apartment, cooked his own meals and took the bus like ordinary folk. "It comes from his heart," Rosales said. "He's not an actor who puts on (an act)."
"You can see that this person that God chose to lead the church can give a lot of things, not only advice but also examples," he said. (AP)