Pope Francis Appoints Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle to Vatican’s Evangelization Department

Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, left, shows Pope Francis how to give the popular hand sign for “I love you” at the Mall of Asia arena in Manila, Philippines, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015. Pope Francis is on a five-day apostolic visit in this predominantly Catholic nation in Asia. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

In a surprise move, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, as the head of Propaganda Fide, the major Vatican department for evangelization, on Sunday (Dec. 8). It’s a move that emphasizes this pontificate’s efforts to highlight the global peripheries and taps the cardinal as a possible successor.

“Thank you very much to all of you. I will ask for your prayers,” has so far been the only statement released by a teary-eyed Tagle after a Mass for the Immaculate Conception celebration on Monday (Dec. 9).

Tagle’s appointment required some reshuffling of the Vatican hierarchy. Pope Francis accepted the resignation of U.S. Cardinal Edwin Frederick O’Brien as the head of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, having reached the age limit of 80 years old. In O’Brien’s place, he appointed Italian Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who formerly headed the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, usually referred to by its former name, Propaganda Fide.

At 62, Cardinal Tagle will oversee all of the Catholic missions in the world, a natural transition from his current appointment as president of the global Catholic charity Caritas Internationalis.

The appointment underlines three important issues that help clarify the intentions of this pontificate and possibly make way for the next.

The first is the continued focus, not on Western centers of power, but instead on the countries where the majority of tomorrow’s Catholics live. Secondly, it places a premium on evangelization over doctrine, which has been at the heart of reforming efforts by Pope Francis. Third, appointing Tagle to such an influential position in the Vatican has led observers to look at him as a viable candidate for the next papal election.

Tagle is the second person from Asia to occupy this important position in the Vatican, following the now-deceased Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias, who headed the department from 2006 to 2011. His taking over the Vatican’s evangelization efforts embodies Pope Francis’ repeated appeals to “reach out toward the peripheries” and the developing world.

A little over a week after the pope’s fourth apostolic visit to Asia — when he visited Thailand and Japan — the appointment of Tagle makes clear Francis’ intention to focus on reaching more of the East with the Catholic message.

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Source: Religion News Service