The Cardinal Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle is the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Vatican News reported. The appointment of Pope Francis was announced Sunday, December 8, 2019. The current Prefect, Fernando Filoni, assumes the post of Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in place of Cardinal Edwin Frederick O’Brien, who resigned in April 2019 and turned 80.
With the nomination of Cardinal Tagle, an Asian cardinal returned to the leadership of Propaganda Fide (the ancient name of the important department for evangelization, which is also responsible for episcopal nominations in mission lands), after the years of Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias (2006-2011). Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, born on June 21, 1957, in Manila to a Catholic family – his father of Tagalog ethnicity and his mother of Chinese origin – was ordained priest in 1982. He studied in the United States where he obtained his doctorate in theology with a thesis on the evolution of the notion of episcopal collegiality since the Second Vatican Council. He spent seven years in Rome to deepen his studies and in 1997 joined the International Theological Commission.
After having been parish priest of the cathedral of Imus, at the age of 44 he was nominated bishop of that diocese by Saint John Paul II in October 2001. He dedicated himself in particular to youth ministry and inaugurated the first meeting of young Asians in Imus. On October 13, 2011, Benedict XVI appointed him Metropolitan Archbishop of Manila and thirteen months later, in November 2012, during the last consistory of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI he received the cardinal’s hat. In addition to leading the diocese of the Philippine metropolis, Tagle is also president of Caritas Internationalis and the Catholic Biblical Federation. With this choice, announced a few days before the end of his trip to Thailand and Japan, Francis once again shows great attention to the Asian continent. With the designation of Tagle, which follows by a few weeks that of the Spanish Jesuit Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, two new heads of department will be installed at the beginning of 2020 in the Roman Curia.
Pope Francis then appointed 73-year-old Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of Propaganda Fide from 2011 to the present day, who becomes Prefect Emeritus of the same Dicastery, the new Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Filoni was apostolic nuncio to Iraq from 2001 to 2006 and lived in Baghdad during the war of 2003. Then for a year, he was the Pope’s ambassador to the Philippines before being called to the Secretariat of State as Substitute, a post he held until 2011. His experience in the Middle East will be valuable in the new task, as the Order of the Holy Sepulchre cooperates particularly with the Middle Eastern Christian communities and supports them with many projects.
In a statement, Cardinal O’Brien expressed his great appreciation for the Pope’s decision, and said he is particularly happy that Cardinal Filoni has been chosen as his successor: “His long and extensive pastoral and administrative service in our Universal Church”, O’Brien said, “will be precious in guiding the Order on its future path”.