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'Papabile' Tagle on clerical sex abuse, RH bill, and Pope Benedict XVI

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has been famous in the Catholic community – not just as the world's second youngest cardinal at 55 – but also a possible replacement for the resigned Pope Benedict XVI. But more than an effective communicator and a charismatic leader, Tagle has been described by most cardinals to be “left of center” due to his aggressive stances on clerical abuse, according to a report by the National Catholic Reporter. So how vocal is he? What does he think of the reproductive health law, the sex scandals of the church? Who is Pope Benedict XVI for the aspiring replacement? How does he perceive social networking sites? Read on to find out. 'Care' for the clerical abusers Tagle has an aggressive opinion regarding the clerical sex scandals that rocked the Catholic Church. In an interview with Allesandro Speciale of the Union of Catholic Asian News in Rome last December, he said: “You do not try to hide the problem. But looking at the problem, you respond as pastor. The Church responds as Mother Church.” But Tagle gave a second chance to the clerical abusers, saying: “You care. You care for the victims... You care also for the abuser who is definitely lost and you do not want the person to continue being lost... This is a very Asian approach. And it is that approach [that] leads to healing, but healing based on justice, based on truth.” Asked about the impact of the sex scandals from the Church, Tagle said “(t)he scandals of all these have caused some pain in people. Which have let them in a way distance themselves from the church.” RH law: Tragic Tagle called the passage of the Reproductive Health law — a legislation staunchly opposed by the Catholic Church — “unfortunate and tragic.” “But we do not take it as a defeat of truth — for truth shall prevail, especially the truth about human life, marriage and the family... [The Manila Archdiocese would] work harder to promote the sanctity of human life and of the human person," he said in an interview with The Catholic News Service in Vatican about a law that legalizes contraception and promotes maternal health. 'Truthful' social media Tagle denounced fraud and abuse in the social media, citing the fake accounts that claim to be his on Facebook. “It is saddening and alarming to know that there are some people who take advantage of the reach and availability of social networking sites – spreading scandals and false information about a certain entity or personality, engaging in fraud and scams, and at times pretending to be someone else,” Tagle said in his program “The Word Exposed” posted on YouTube. He said social media should be used for the “truth.” “Let us keep the social networking world a good communication venue by being truthful.” But “to set the record straight,” Tagle said he has “no Facebook account,” only a lone Facebook page managed by the Jesuit Communication. Youth's role in the faith Tagle said the youth wanted “to be connected” to the Catholic faith. “That is the basic of the faith — [to be] connected to God, connected to others, to the Church. We need to go back to that fundamental," Tagle said once at a forum. During the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held in October 2012 at the Vatican, Tagle said young Catholics are longing for the faith. “A young girl asked: 'Are we the youth lost or has the Church lost us?'” Tagle shared during the congregation. “Her question expresses a longing for a Church where she can be found by Jesus and where she can find Him. But for the Church to be the 'space' of a faith-encounter with the Lord, she must learn anew from Jesus in whom we meet God.” Church's power not about numbers In the December interview of Allesandro Speciale of Union of Catholic Asian News in Rome, Tagle was asked about the waning power of the Catholic Church in some countries, particularly those in North America and Europe. Tagle said the Catholic faith is not about the numbers. “This is the first time that the Church is experiencing a diminution in numbers. But at the same time, this is a calling for us. Does our faith and does the life of the church depend on numbers only? You may have a big congregation but does that automatically translate into a vitality of faith?” he said. He also told La Republica daily in an Agence France-Presse report that what is important is the “quality of the faith.” “Today in the ancient churches — above all in Europe, where Christians have been the majority for centuries — there is concern about the future of the Church... This is the first lesson of Catholics in Asia. For us, the vitality of the Church is not measured by how many Catholics there are but by the quality of faith,” he said. On Pope Benedict XVI Asked what he thinks about Benedict XVI, who stepped down early this month due to health reasons, Tagle expressed his admiration for the former leader. “The thing that most strikes me about him is that he wanted to bring the Church back to the basics,” Tagle said. He also lauded Benedict XVI's for not losing hope in the Church. “That's why I was quite inspired by some directions coming from [Benedict XVI]. He is a calming presence... who would say, well, if the Church for example in the West becomes a minority, then for as long as the minority has deep faith, lives by the faith, witnesses to the faith, then the church is vibrant,” Tagle said. Him being the next Pope? Tagle once admitted that his knowledge on the selection of the next pope by the College of Cardinals remains limited, even calling himself a “bagito (newbie).” "Aaminin ko sa inyo, hindi ko pa masyadong alam kung ano ang mangyayari. Nagbabasa pa nga ako kung ano ba talaga ang gagawin. Bagitong-bagito pa,” Tagle said in a speech at a leadership forum on February 17. The papabile has been seen crying when he was installed Cardinal November last year, to which Tagle merely explained: "I cry easily.” “I guess when you're before a great mystery that you know is beyond you — a calling, a grace, a mission — then you tremble and at the same time you're happy,” he said in an article by Tagle was once asked if it were likely for him to be the next pope in an interview by Canada's Salts and Light TV months before he became a cardinal. He said: “I don't know. Maybe we should ask the Holy Spirit.”  — Marc Jayson Cayabyab/KBK, GMA News