MANILA, March 2, 2014—Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo vowed to fight the “injustice” prevailing in conflict-stricken Mindanao, noting that his term as cardinal will focus on strengthening ties between Christians and Muslims in the country.
“My insight into the culture of the Bangsamoro…is that there was an injustice committed to the Bangsamoro—to their self-identity, to their sovereignty, and to their territory,” Quevedo said in a television interview Friday.
“(Muslims) had the sovereignty overall of Mindanao…They had sultanates, they hold political structures, and the territory was theirs. The change in demography in Mindanao came about after the Spanish time,” he said.
“The demography changed so that waves and waves of Christian migration went to the Promised Land. The Muslims, more or less…became a minority in the land which they were dominant. And I thought that was injustice,” he added.
He said a deeper understanding of the history of the Bangsamoro will help mend ties and strengthen peace among Filipinos of different religious denominations.
Quevedo noted that part of his mission will focus on educating Christians about the roots of the Bangsamoro to lessen, if not totally eradicate, the prejudice and bias perceived by the public.
“A part of my mission would be to help educate our own fellow Christians about the history and culture of the Bangsamoro so that less and less, the prejudices and biases against each other will be there in the social light and cultural exchanges…so there will be less prejudice and less bias,” he said.
“The reason I say this is they had all of Mindanao before the Spanish came. They had their own identity. They might have been fighting against each other, but when there was a common enemy, they would bond together. (It was) self-identity based on the idea that they were Muslims,” he noted.
Filled with ‘trepidation’
Quevedo admitted feeling anxious over his new appointment, saying that working as an adviser to the Supreme Pontiff fills him with “great inadequacy.” He was formally elevated to the College of Cardinals through a consistory officiated by Pope Francis last February 22.
“I feel very insecure. I have always been self-confident, but this one fills me with trepidation, a sense of great inadequacy. Not only because I am being raised on a new title and new authority as an adviser to the Pope. But how can one advise the Pope with others who are much older and much more experienced?” he said.
The prelate further noted that to act both as an adviser to the Pope and as a cardinal in Mindanao is a big task that forces him to be more cautious in giving opinions about social issues.
“To be some kind of an unofficial spokesman for the bishops in Mindanao, for the church in Mindanao. From now on, if I speak, I cannot say that I speak of my own name…I have to know the issues, I have to know the opinions of my fellow brother bishops about certain burning issues on peace, political, or social so it fills me with a sense of inadequacy,” Quevedo said.
However, he noted that the “sense of inadequacy” that fills him is good “for it strengthens the idea of being humble.”
“The call by God through the Pope, to be a cardinal, is a humbling experience for me,” Quevedo said.
Resigning as archbishop
In the same television interview, he also announced that he would resign as Archbishop of Cotabato by the time he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75.
“On March 11, I will be 75. I will be writing my letter of resignation to the Holy Father as Archbishop of Cotabato,” Quevedo said.
According to the Code of Canon Law, Catholic bishops are required to tender their resignation on their 75th birth anniversary.
Asked whether he sees hope for a Filipino cardinal to be chosen as Pope in the future, Quevedo said: “I will leave that to the other cardinal (Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle). He is young, he has several chances. But for me, that chance is gone.” (Jennifer Orillaza)