Pope Francis has named Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, the Vatican department that oversees the Catholic Church’s missionary activities worldwide.
The 62-year-old cardinal succeeds Cardinal Fernando Filoni, 73, who since 2011 had led the Vatican office overseeing the Church’s vast mission territories. Mission, evangelisation and dialogue have been recurrent themes in Tagle’s teaching, preaching and public speaking. At the 2012 Synod of Bishops on new evangelisation, then-Archbishop Tagle emphasised the importance when evangelising of imitating Jesus’ humility and demonstrating real love and concern for all people, particularly “those neglected and despised by the world.”
Being humble also means recognising when the Church does not have all the answers, and therefore being willing to remain silent, he said, adding that “a Church at home with silence will make the voiceless believe they are not alone.”
Born in Manila on 21 June 1957, he was raised in Imus and went to a grade school and high school run by the Augustinians in Parañaque City. In 1973, he entered the seminary and began university studies at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University and San José Seminary in Manila. Ordained to the priesthood in 1982 for the Diocese of Imus, he was sent to the United States for further studies, earning a doctorate in theology from The Catholic University of America.
In 1997, St John Paul II named him to a five-year term on the International Theological Commission, the group of theologians who study specific questions at the behest of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. During his term, the president of the commission was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI. In 2001, he was ordained a bishop and installed as bishop of Imus and, 10 years later, he was installed as archbishop of Manila. He served as an expert at the special Synod of Bishops on Asia in 1998 and, as a bishop, was a member of the synods in 2008 on the Bible, 2012 on evangelisation and 2018 on young people.
Pope Francis chose him as one of the president’s delegates of the 2014 and 2015 synod assemblies on the family. In 2015, Tagle was elected president of Caritas Internationalis, the global confederation of national Catholic charities; he was re-elected to the position in May. In late 2014, he was elected to a six-year term as president of the Catholic Biblical Federation.
Cardinal Tagle is the second Asian to head the important Vatican dicastery, after late Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias who served from 2006 to 2011. The appointment is regarded as reaffirming the Church’s missionary mandate and is highly significant for the continent which is home to two-thirds of the world’s population and where Catholics make up only about 3.3 per cent of the population. Of his 32 pastoral journeys abroad, Pope Francis has dedicated 4 of them to Asia.