MANILA, 15 May 2015— Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the newly elected President of Caritas Internationalis, has called for a strengthened service to the poor and the marginalized.
Speaking on the phone at the confederation’s 20th general assembly in Rome to accept his new post, he said a united effort is needed in building a ‘church of the poor’.
“Let us together strengthen the church of the poor so our witness can help guide us to a world of understanding justice, true freedom and peace,” Tagle said to delegates from over 130 member organizations from all over the world.
“Thank you for your trust. I’m limited in my capacities but with all of you, with the love that Jesus has poured into our hearts and in the name of all of the poor people in the world, I accept this election,” he said
The cardinal was in the United States during the election where he was awarded “honoris causa” from the Catholic Theological University in Chicago.
Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said Tagle will fly to Rome and will join the assembly on May 16 to formally assume the presidency of the global confederation of Catholic charities.
Unlike other polls, Gariguez said there “there is not much funfare or politicking or even campaigning” in the Caritas elections.
He said the nominees were given to present themselves and their qualifications before the plenary a day before the election.
Cardinal Tagle, however, did not have the chance to personally appear before the assembly because he was still in the US. A video message from him was played instead.
Gariguez said he was a bit worried that Tagle’s absence created an impression “that he might not be the best one for the position because he is already given much responsibility”.
“I have been asked by the participants about his availability a number of times,” he said.
While not present, the priest said that Cardinal Tagle still won in the voting, 91 out of 133 over the other candidate, Maronite Archbishop Joseph Soueif of Cyprus .
‘Gift to the world’
“His pastoral zeal and leadership will certainly challenge the organization to strengthen its commitment of serving the poor and the vulnerable,” said Gariguez.
“The poor has a special place in his heart. His pastoral ministry stems from a genuine sense of compassion like Pope Francis,” he added.
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is stepping down after serving two terms, also offered his congratulations and warm support.
In Manila, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines President Archbishop Socrates Villegas said he was not surprised Tagle was elected as Caritas head.
“We are very happy and proud. It is not a surprise. Cardinal Tagle is a gift of the Church in the Philippines to the world. He is a blessing everywhere he is sent,” Villegas said.
Faith in action
The assembly which will end on May 17 aims to discuss and adopt new strategic framework for the next four years of Caritas under Cardinal Tagle’s administration.
He is also expected to lead the organization’s commitment to reduce the impact of humanitarian crisis by enhancing disaster preparedness and response.
In the country, Caritas Philippines has been working with the same zeal and commitment, in the service of the poor and vulnerable.
In 2013, it started working for 3-year recovery and rehabilitation of the families affected by the monstrous typhoon Yolanda that hit central Philippines.
Two years after the disaster, it continues to provide shelter, livelihoods and water, sanitation and hygiene facilities to over a hundred thousand individuals while moving on to building and sustaining more disaster resilient communities.
Also known as the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, the agency has also been strongly involved in land rights, good governance and right to food advocacies while contributing greatly to sustainable agriculture efforts in the country.
“With the election of Cardinal Tagle, who is also the first Caritas Internationalis President from Asia, it is very likely that ‘faith in action’ will continue to flourish,” Gariguez said. (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews)