Since it was announced by no less than Pope Francis himself that Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has been appointed Prefect of the Congregation on the Evangelization of Peoples on December 8, 2019, there has been a lot of speculations on who would be the next Archbishop of Manila. Yes, speculations, because we truly do not know.

We know that positions in the Church are not by popularity, much less by our so-called “padrino system.” The Church has its own process of choosing bishops and appointing them to various positions. In fact a particular department in Rome, the Congregation on Bishops, is on top of this process.

Consultations are conducted in the countries concerned by the apostolic nunciatures. These are equivalent to the embassies of the Holy See in many countries that have diplomatic relations with Rome. Consultation letters are sent to people who would know the candidates or who could nominate other candidates for the intended position.

Certain bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters and lay leaders are sent these consultation forms. Those consulted are bound under pontifical secret not to divulge the consultation letters and their responses to protect the good name of the candidates and the respondents alike.

All the answers to these consultations are processed in the nunciature and then sent to the Congregation on Bishops in Rome which further analyzes and discerns on the results. These are then given to the Holy Father for his final choice. The person chosen is then informed and asked for his consent. It is only then that a date is set for the public announcement.

The process is long and tedious. So, it is useless to speculate on who would be the one chosen. Rather than speculate, the best thing to do is to pray that those consulted and those who do and process the consultations may be enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit. Most of all, we pray for the Holy Father. The final responsibility rests on him, and to think that there are more than five thousand positions in the Church all over the world to be considered. This is no easy task, so we all need to pray for the Holy Father in this service that he does for the Church.

Positions in the Church are not promotions like in the secular world. They are modes of service. There is a constant temptation, even in the Church, of trying to get prominence to be the greatest. This is the careerism that people in the Church are strongly warned against.

Even the apostles themselves were not exempted from this temptation. So we have this incident in the gospel. “An argument broke out among them (the apostles) about which of them should be regarded as the greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors;’ but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? I am among you as the one who serves.” (Lk. 22:24-27).

The one who does service is the servant. The servant does not consider himself as entitled – to position, to recognition, to compensation. He just does what is asked of him and he is happy to oblige.

Jesus had this to say through a parable: “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'” (Lk. 17:7-10)

Broderick Pabillo
January 26, 2020