Who will be the next Pope?

Last night, the husband is wishing I would agree to have cable TV installed in the house. The reason: He wants to watch the upcoming Vatican conclave in March. I think I will give in despite my uncanny ability to live sans TV because me too, is excited to see Cardinal and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle (fondly known as Bishop Chito to former/present Imus-Cavite folks like us) – participate in the election of the 112th Pope.

Going for Bishop Chito

A lot of Catholic Filipinos are rooting for him to be Pope. Others are skeptical, though. My take is that it is really a long-shot-way-from-the-back-door-route for Bishop Chito to reach the Papacy. As he said he is just a “newbie” cardinal, and has been Archbishop of Manila for only over a year. Although not to discount the fact that he is indeed capable of the role. He is young, vibrant, has the ideal balance between the progressive and conservative Catholic paradigms, and is really – very humble. When he got appointed as Manila Archbishop, even the Church’s critics never doubted his capacity to listen and to stay humble. Add to that is his notable level of intelligence. In the Ateneo, he is known to be the only contender to Dr. Jose Rizal’s grades. Even in his completed studies abroad, the minimum award he received was that of a magna cum laude. Despite his achievements, Bishop Chito is ever humble. Ever lacking the desire for entitlements garnered for high office, he would ride a jeep around Imus and mingle with anyone.

Upon becoming the highest head of Church in the country, he is the first to reiterate that one has to go back to the poor communities because the Church is for the poor. That is something refreshing when most Filipinos think the Catholic Church is all ceremonies with no genuine heart to listen and be one with the underprivileged. I remember him saying during the epic debate and people-bashing era of the RH bill that if we do not have love for one another, then we can just go on hurting our brothers more. He called for kindness and respect regardless of one’s position on the issue. That statement was truly a reflection of his personality. If there is one priest who would say that, it would really be him. On the other hand, I think he is also too “mabait” to a fault because I never heard him reprimand bishops and priests who use their homilies to name-drop and bash certain politicians. But he was firm in putting into jail/investigation those erring priests who were charged of sexual abuse. Not covering up for them – ever.

Pressure is on us

If ever Cardinal Tagle becomes Pope, oh it will be tremendous pressure for the country! For sure our lawmakers will not just think twice but a hundred times before they push for a controversial bill (i.e. divorce bill), minding the greater power the Church has attained.

For the PH society in general, I think we would have a lot of eyes watching us deal with our own societal evils – ever questioning the faith of our countrymen. Pressure ito!

And I really think the Catholic Church in the Philippines will face more challenges and criticisms more than ever. It can be a purifying experience, though.

It will be given to us if God wills it.

My husband thinks the next Pope is a Filipino. I told him insiders and Pope Benedict XVI’s closest aids think otherwise – it’ll come from Latin America or Africa where the Catholic faith is the strongest and most prevalent. Their cardinals might win the conclave’s favor because of their experience and the sheer number of their faithful flock.

However, we cannot discount the seemingly surprising notice of our country in terms of church affairs in recent times. One is the rise of Bishop Chito as Archbishop of Manila; his confirmation from the Vatican as cardinal; and of course the sainthood of Pedro Calungsod. The trend seems to point us in the direction of the Papacy – assuming much! Hehehe! I still think it’s a long, long, long stone throw’s away.

At the end of it all, I believe the ultimate decision is out of our hands – not even with the conclave of bishops in Rome. They can only reach a certain point to do so much. Only God’s will shall prevail in the end. And whoever becomes the next Pope, I’m sure the Catholic world will rejoice no less.

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