Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Bus-Riding Bishop Named Top Cleric in Philippines

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Bus-Riding Bishop Named Top Cleric in Philippines

Article excerpt

Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Imus, Philippines, a guitar-playing cleric who eschews clerical garb and takes public transportation, has been named the next archbishop of Manila, one of the most high-profile sees in Asia.

The announcement of Tagle's appointment, which puts him in line to become a cardinal, was made by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines Oct. 13. The current archbishop, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, had reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 and resigned.

Tagle told the church-run Radio Veritas that he was "overwhelmed" and "humbled" by the appointment. He said he had barely slept the night before the announcement and was tearful when he woke up.

Tagle is a youthful-looking 54. The story goes that in the mid-1990s, when then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger introduced Tagle to Pope John Paul II as a new member of the Vatican's International Theological Commission, Ratzinger jokingly assured the pope that the Filipino had, in fact, received his first Communion.

Some church watchers in Rome and the Philippines say that Tagle could be pope someday.

Born in Manila, Tagle went to seminary in Quezon City and later did his doctoral work at The Catholic University of America in Washington. He also studied in Rome before returning to the Philippines to serve as a pastor and teacher. He quickly came to be seen as a rising star in the Asian church, explaining his appointment in 1997 to the Vatican's main doctrinal advisory body. He was named bishop of Imus in 2001.

Theologically and politically, Tagle is considered balanced. He's taken strong positions against the Philippines' proposed Reproductive Health Bill, which includes promotion of birth control. Yet his towering social concern is defense of the poor, and he's also got a strong environmental streak.

Tagle's doctoral dissertation at Catholic University, written under Fr. Joseph Komonchak, was a favorable treatment of the development of episcopal collegiality at the Second Vatican Council. Moreover, Tagle served for 15 years on the editorial board of the Bologna, Italy-based "History of Vatican II" project founded by Giuseppe Alberigo, criticized by some conservatives for an overly progressive reading of the council.

Alberto Melloni, an Italian academic and writer, directs the Bologna project. He calls Tagle "a thinker of real value," whose dissertation represents an important chapter in the history of Vatican II, and someone who's "talented and serious."

Back in the Philippines, Tagle, who goes by the nickname "Chito," is well-loved for his warmth and humor, for his simplicity, for his ability to express complex ideas in attractive and understandable language, for his balance and openness, and for his lack of ego. …

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