Batuhan: A Pinoy Pope?-A A +A
Friday, February 22, 2013
DURING the time of the late president Ferdinand Marcos, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was infamous for making the impossible happen.
Stories were told of towns and cities where the number of votes cast exceeded the actual population, giving rise to the joke that even the dead came back to vote on election day. In fact, the popular crack then was that the Comelec was so good at vote-rigging, a Filipino could be elected pope if it was the poll body supervising the vote count.
Today, however, without the help of the Comelec, it seems that a Filipino may have, albeit an outsider’s one, a real chance at the papacy.
The man who may have that chance to lead Christ’s church here on earth is none other than the Archbishop of Manila, his eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. “Chito” to those who are close to him, the cardinal has had a truly meteoric rise within the Catholic hierarchy, holding the distinction of being the second youngest cardinal today, at 55.
Although a secular priest, the cardinal was educated by the Jesuits at the Ateneo de Manila University. He is described by many as a genius, garnering summa cum laude distinctions at the Ateneo, and later on at the Catholic University of America.
Tagle is very close to the outgoing Pope Benedict XVI, for whom he served as a young priest with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Following the surprise announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he would be abdicating the papal office at the end of the month, speculation over who the successor would be commenced almost immediately.
The changing demographics of the Catholic faithful was immediately put on the spotlight, as it may give some clue on how the selection process would be played out.
As it turns out, less than a fourth of the world’s Catholics now live in Europe, with the balance mostly located in South America, Africa and Asia. The former alone has close to half of the faithful, while Asia has about a sixth, thanks in no small measure to the Philippines.
Therefore, if conclaves were played out like secular elections, then possibly the non-Europeans would have the upper hand. Of course, they are not.
Only the college of cardinals vote to elect the pope, and in this body of church elders, roughly half are still Europeans, most notably Italians.
Still, the elevation of a non-European cardinal to the papal office cannot be dismissed. In fact, the names beginning to surface now have been mostly from the developing world. And most noteworthy is that non-Caucasians are among the frontrunners, if the secular press is to be believed.
For all Catholics, of course, whoever replaces the pope hardly matters. Our belief is that it will be a divinely-inspired choice guided by the Holy Spirit, and the chosen one will have the authority from Christ himself to shepherd the faithful.
For Filipino Catholics, however, just the thought that a countryman may one day wave to the crowds from the famous window overlooking St. Peter’s Square is reason enough for joyful celebration.
Filipinos today, being migrants to places far and wide, have been variously described as the new evangelists of the faith. With so many now working in foreign lands, we are one of the Church’s foremost ambassadors, and visible witnesses to exemplary Christian living.
What a blessing then it would be if one of our own could also one day become the fisher of men, the visible head of Christ’s Church on earth.
(I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the family of my late uncle Dr. Roel Banzon, who was called home by our Lord on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013.)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 23, 2013.