A Pope Of Hope. Does Cardinal Tagle connect?

clip_image002MANILA: The world needs a Pope of Hope.

A Roman Catholic, Raymond Arroyo is saying the Cardinals gathered in Rome seem to be looking for "a reformer" and at the same time "a charismatic Pope who will boldly proclaim the Gospel in this challenging age" (08 March 2013, raymondarroyo.com). A Roman Catholic, I insist on a Pope of Hope. I hope we're not avoiding the issue. Now, to anchor on hope, first, we must get our bearings.

Jesus Christ said to his disciples in a gathering, "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13: 34-35, NRSV). Based on the Bible, he was speaking as the Son of God.

Cardinal Luis Antonio "Chito" Tagle said to his listeners in a forum, "The young want to be connected. That is the basic of the faith - connected to God, connected to others, to the Church. We need to go back to that fundamental" (ANN, 09 March 2013, sundayex.catholic.org.hk). Based on what I have read so far in the news, online, it looks to me that Chito Tagle was speaking as the next Pope should be.

And how do we reconcile what the Master says with what the Servant says? Love is the connection. There cannot be any other.

Connected to God, connected to others, connected to the Church: What about connected to the poor? And how do you connect with love?

Professor of Theology Joseph Ratzinger says in 1969: "We are at the turning point in the evolution of mankind. … From this crisis will emerge a Church that has lost a great deal. It will become small and will have to start pretty much all over again. … It will be a more spiritual Church and will not claim a political mandate, flirting with the Right one minute and the Left the next. It will be poor and will become the Church of the destitute" (ANN as cited).

Pope Benedict XVI says in 2011, "For decades now we have been experiencing a decline in religious practice and we have been seeing substantial numbers of the baptized drifting away from Church life." Then he speaks of "a relationship with the world that would keep the Church up to date, so men and woman could see a vision beyond themselves into the eternal" (same source above).

Christ, the Pope says, came not simply to save the world but "to change it." Yes, I say, but change is not a constant; it is an assumption - you have to work at it.

About change, just as the Manila Cathedral is undergoing major repairs, lest an earthquake crumble it, and in fact has been closed since February 2012, does the Roman Catholic Church need massive structural repair? No. I believe not. The doctrines are intact; the teachings are pure. Roman Catholicism is alive and well - it is the Roman Catholic who needs to change, especially the man of the cloth.

Especially the Pope.

Arroyo says, "Benedict’s resignation provided yet another requirement for the job: the man must be robust and young enough to meet the expectations of the modern papacy" (as cited).

At 55, Chito Tagle is the second youngest among the Cardinals. He was ordained a priest on 27 February 1982, became a Bishop on 22 October 2001, an Archbishop on 13 October 2011, and a Cardinal on 24 November 2012. As a Cardinal and under 80, he is automatically a candidate as the next Pope.

"The (popable) talks surrounding Tagle have been fueled by prominent Vatican experts, who see in the boyish-looking cardinal the religious zest, stamina, charisma and communications skills that could energize the church facing crises on many fronts" (Daniel Miller, 07 March 2013, dailymail.co.uk):

He's the singing Cardinal who uses Facebook to spread the word of the Lord, and he's now being tipped as a contender to become the first Asian Pope. ¶ Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Asia's most prominent Roman Catholic leader, sings on stage, preaches on TV and reduces churchgoers to laughter and tears with his often light-hearted sermons. ¶ With his down-to-earth, personable manner, Tagle, nicknamed 'Chito' by his adoring followers, seems a world apart from the conservative Cardinals and Bishops of Europe and North America.

We must renew the Roman Catholic. Why not beginning with the Pope? "The Year of Faith invites us to listen to the deep cries and aspirations of the people and societies of our time so that we can proclaim Jesus Christ to them with new methods, new expressions, and new fervor" (ANN, 14 February 2013, cbcpnews.com). With a new kind of Pope.

I understand the Africans would appreciate that the next Pope come from Africa, the Yankees from the US, the Europeans from Europe, the South Americans from South America, and the Asians from Asia. I think we Catholics need less a Pope who comes from somewhere and we need more a Pope who wants to go everywhere, that is to say, who has a personal touch with a universal Reach, thinking globally, acting locally. You shouldn't be preaching hope to only a few.

You have to be truly universal in approach and in appeal. From hopeless to hopeful, even from helpless to helpful, you can change people, but first you have to connect to them. Then they will have to change themselves; only they can truly change themselves.

Including the poor. Especially the poor.

Fr Nithiya Sagayam, the Executive Secretary of the Office for Human Development of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences says, "It is highly important for the Church not to be like a secular organization occupied with matters of money and power; instead it must heed the cries and the anxieties of people today, in particular the poor and the marginalized" (ANN as cited). For instance, "The Gospel should be translated into action so there are equal opportunities for the African farmer to sell coffee to Europe and get better prices," says Rev Gerald Wamala (Elias Biryabarema, 09 March 2013, ph.news.yahoo.com).

Of the poor and Chito Tagle, Fr Romeo Ner, one of his mentors says, "He was always number one in school. He was very interested in helping the poor even at a young age, and he was very close to the Church."

"He's an effective communicator and missionary at a time when Catholicism's highest internal priority is a new evangelization," John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter says of Tagle (Miller as cited):

Tagle incarnates the dramatic growth of Catholicism outside the West, putting a face on the dynamic and relatively angst-free form of Catholicism percolating in the Southern Hemisphere. He would certainly be a symbol of the Church in the emerging world, (not to mention) his intellectual and personal qualities.

Jim Gomez says of Chito Tagle, "Asia's most prominent Roman Catholic leader knows how to reach the masses" (09 March 2013, news.yahoo.com). "He sings on stage, preaches on TV, brings churchgoers to laughter and tears with his homilies. And he's on Facebook."

The Roman Catholics need to connect more and more, Cardinal Luis Antonio "Chito" Tagle is saying. As a Roman Catholic, am I connecting yet?

With love, we connect with hope.

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