A Facebook page wrongfully claims that in case former Manila archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle is elected pope in the next conclave, he will be the first Asian to become Bishop of Rome and head of the Roman Catholic Church.

CLAIM: If Cardinal Tagle is elected pope, he will be the first Asian pontiff



Wanna Fact PH, a Facebook page that describes itself as “One fact at a time. Inside story for Lifestyle, Politics and Trending news,” posted a social media card saying that if former Manila archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle is elected in the next papal conclave to succeed the reigning pontiff, Pope Francis, he will become the first Asian pope.

This is false.

The Catholic Encyclopedia lists 266 popes of the Roman Catholic Church. The Liber Pontificalis (Book of the Popes) lists the early popes in form of biographies beginning with St. Peter, and continues down to his successors until the fifteenth century.  The Holy See’s Annuario Pontificio, its annual directory, also lists the names of the popes in chronological order.  

St. Peter, the very first pope in office, was born in Bethsaida, in present-day Golan Heights.  It is Syrian territory occupied by Israel, is located in the Middle East, and therefore, of the Asian continent.

According to the Liber Pontificalis, the fourth successor of St. Peter, St. Evaristus, was born in Bethlehem, also in present-day Israel, making him an Asian as well.

Overall there have been 10 popes from Asia:

  • five from modern-day Syria (St. Anicetus, Pope John V, Pope Sisinnius, Pope Constantine, and Pope Gregory III);
  • three from modern-day Israel (St. Peter, St. Evaristus, and Pope Theodore I); and
  • two from Anatolia in modern-day Turkey (Pope Conon and Pope John VI).

Tagle, along with Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő, the archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, were recently named in a Catholic Herald story as frontliners, or papabile, should a papal conclave be held.  

PressOne.PH columnist and Catholic apologist Carlos Antonio Palad noted in his Facebook post that papal conclave frontliners do not always get elected to the papacy.  

“Since the beginning of the 20th century, there has been only one conclave where there was one super-clear frontrunner for the Papacy, and where that frontrunner got elected: 1939, when the Cardinals elected the Secretary of State Eugenio Card. Pacelli, who took the name Pius XII,” he wrote.

This echoes a popular Italian proverb: “He who enters the conclave as pope, leaves it as a cardinal.” 

Talk of another papal resignation rose in the past weeks as Pope Francis struggled with health issues and ahead of a papal visit to L’Aquila shrine where the body of Pope St. Celestine V, the first pope to resign the papacy, rests. 

Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, visited L’Aquila after the church where the body of the saintly pope rests was destroyed by a powerful quake in 2009. Benedict left the papal pallium he received during his papal inaugural Mass in April 2005 as a gift to the saint. St. Celestine’s body now wears Benedict’s pallium. — Rommel F. Lopez 

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