Then Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle applauds at Pope Francis’ response to a question during the pontiff’s visit to Blessed Sacrament Parish in Rome May 6. The Pope has raised Tagle to the rank of cardinal bishop, the highest rank of cardinals, in an announcement Friday, May 1 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-PARISH-LOVE May 7, 2018.

Pope Francis has promoted Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to the rank of cardinal-bishop, the highest rank in the Sacred College of Cardinals.

The appointment was announced Friday by the Vatican.

Tagle, the former Archbishop of Manila, was promoted along with Italian Beniamino Cardinal Stella, the current Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, a post previously held by the first Filipino cardinal appointed to a top Vatican post, the late José Tomás Cardinal Sánchez.

At 62 years old, Tagle is the youngest of the 15 cardinal-bishops of the Catholic Church.

Both Stella and Tagle are one of the few trusted cardinals of Pope Francis earning them the monicker “Francis men”. This latest promotion of the two confirms that.

The College of Cardinals, the body of cardinals that advises and elects the Pope, is made up of three ranks: cardinal deacons, cardinal priests and cardinal bishops. Traditionally, cardinal bishops are titular bishops of one of the seven “Suburbicarian dioceses” in the area surrounding Rome: Ostia, Albano, Porto and Santa Rufina, Palestrina, Sabina and Mentana, Frascati, and Velletri. These seven dioceses have their own local ordinary or current reigning bishop. The title assigned to the cardinal-bishops is purely honorific. In 2018, Pope Francis expanded the number of cardinal-bishops to 12.

In the announcement, Stella was assigned the Suburbicarian Church of Porto-Santa Rufina. However, Tagle’s appointment doesn’t name him to one of the suburbicarian sees. The Holy See hasn’t offered any explanation yet for this.

The appointment to the rank of cardinal bishop is far from just an honorific title as the rank gives the appointed specific obligations.

For example, the dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, the leader of the Sacred College, who acts primus inter pares among the cardinals, is elected from among the cardinal bishops. The Dean presides over the conclave that elects the new pope. If the dean is over 80 years of age, he is prevented by canon law from participating in the conclave. If that is the case, the senior cardinal bishop takes over from the dean.

The latest promotion of Tagle once again debunks the claim of President Rodrigo Duterte that Tagle was removed from his post as Archbishop of Manila and moved to the Vatican by the Pope because Tagle “was too involved in politics”.

President Rodrigo Duterte in March claimed that Tagle was removed as Manila Archbishop by the pope for allegedly using church money to fund his polical opposition.

“Tignan mo nagamit nila ang pera. Kinontribute nila doon sa yellow-yellow. Tignan mo nangyari. Wala tayong bishop ngayon. Hindi mo ba alam? Tinanggal… Tagle was out. He was investigated.
(They contributed the church’s money to the opposition. Look at what happened, now we don’t have a bishop because Tagle was removed. He was investigated.)

He even alleged that Tagle’s removal is an “open secret” claiming that as president, he knows a lot of information.
“Yan ang open secret diyan sa… Eh ako Presidente, siyempre malaman ko. Kasi nakikinig ako sa lahat (That’s the open secret… I’m the president, so of course I know– because I listen to everybody).”

Contrary to Duterte’s claim, Tagle was not removed but promoted by Pope Francis in December 2019 to be the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, one of the most important and biggest departments in the Roman Curia.

As prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Tagle is responsible for promoting and coordinating the Church’s missionary work across the world. He has the authority to recommend who will become bishops in missionary territories or open new missions where the Catholic Church is not present. His other responsibilities include: the promotion and the formation of the clergy and of local hierarchies in mission territories, encouraging new missionary institutes, and providing material assistance for the missionary activity of the Church. Because of this immense authority, the prefect of the Congregation is oftentimes called the “Red Pope” owing to the crimson color of the robes of the cardinal-prefect.

The Vatican’s own news service posted an article debunking Duterte’s claims saying that Tagle’s appointment was a sign of Pope Francis’s “great attention to the Asian continent” and not a sign that the former archbishop of Manila is being investigated by the Vatican as Duterte said.

The same Vatican website also ran a story quoting Filipino Catholic bishops coming to the defense of Tagle from the attacks of Duterte (Rommel F. Lopez)