Picking out who will succeed Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as Manila’s archbishop has become a guessing game in the Philippines.
The Filipino cardinal has been named by Pope Francis as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples at the Vatican, sparking speculation who will succeed him as the Philippine capital’s prelate.
One church leader from the southern Philippines has listed several candidates he thinks will succeed the beloved cardinal.
“All our candidates are mostly those from and around Metro Manila because they know the place, the priests, the situation,” said Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan.
He said Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of the Diocese of Kalookan, a suburb of the capital, is a likely contender.
Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista of Imus, a suffragan of Manila Archdiocese, is also a candidate.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, who used to be auxiliary bishop of Manila, is also a contender, he said.
However, Bishop Bagaforo, the new head of the social action secretariat of the bishops’ conference, said the pope may surprise everyone and appoint somebody from outside Manila.
In the 1970s, Pope Paul VI named the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, who came from Iloilo province in the central Philippines, to head the archdiocese.
Retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches refused to guess as to who will be the next archbishop.
“I really have no idea,” he said, adding that with Pope Francis, “whoever he appoints will surely be a surprise.”
“I’ve been talking to many priests and they cannot point to anybody who is really likely,” said Bishop Bacani. Whoever is appointed has to fill the “very big shoes” of Cardinal Tagle, he said.
The retired bishop said Cardinal Tagle’s successor should be close to the people, a good decision maker, firm with his decisions, and should always be there for his priests.
In his homilies in recent days, Cardinal Tagle asked for prayers from Catholics because “everything is still unclear.”
He declined to give media interviews, saying he is “still in transition.”
When his appointment was announced on Dec. 9, an emotional Cardinal Tagle quoted the Virgin Mary’s response when she was told that she would become the Mother of God: “Be it done to me according to your word.”
The Manila prelate’s new assignment is an important position in the Vatican as it takes care of mission in territories, mostly in Asia and Africa.
Former Philippine ambassador to the Vatican Henrietta de Villa said “mission territories,” which comprise more than one-third of all the dioceses in the world, will be under the cardinal.
“All the appointments of the bishops and Church aid in those areas will come from him,” De Villa said. The position is so important that its head is often referred to as the “Red Pope.”