The appointment of Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila to a top post in the Vatican has offered hope to church leaders in Asia that the challenges they face will be given more attention.
Pope Francis has named Cardinal Tagle, 62, the new prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, popularly known by its old name, Propaganda Fide, on Dec. 8.
The Manila prelate’s appointment will place him on top of evangelization and episcopal nominations in mission lands, especially countries in Asia and Africa.
He will be the second Asian cardinal to head the influential Vatican office after Cardinal Ivan Dias from India, who led Propaganda Fide from 2006 to 2011.
An independent global review of Open Doors estimates that 245 million Christians around the world suffer from religious persecution this year, up from 215 million in 2018.
Out of the 245 million persecuted Christians, 145 million are in Asia, with India entering the top 10 countries for the first time where religious persecution is high.
“The propagation of faith at this moment is taking place much more effectively in Asia rather than in Europe where the faith is almost dormant,” said Bishop Salvador Lobo of India.
He said Cardinal Tagle’s appointment as head of Propaganda Fide came at the “very right time.”
Bishop Lobo said he expects “the importance of the Asian Church” to “stand out” under the leadership of Cardinal Tagle.
Bishop James Romen Boiragi of Bangladesh said Cardinal Tagle’s new post is a “great privilege for Asia,” adding that he expects the Filipino cardinal to “have a great impact” with his new mission.
“[Cardinal Tagle] has experience with Asian countries and he knows the situation, the culture, the people, and how we are working in these countries where Christianity is minority,” said Bishop Boiragi.
Father Bernard Dashi Tang of Myanmar said knowing the context of Asia will help Cardinal Tagle in his work with mission countries.
Father Dashi Tang said the cardinal’s new office can help a lot the mission countries, especially in terms of funding for projects that promote evangelization.
With his appointment as the “red pope,” Cardinal Tagle will be managing funds of the pontifical missionary works.
The World Christian Database estimates that by 2050, there will be about 431 million Christians in Asia, almost 20 percent of the projected population.
Although there is great excitement over Cardinal Tagle’s move to the Vatican, Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, outgoing papal nuncio to the Philippines, reminded Filipinos to let their prelate go.
“We should say ‘yes,’ because God knows better what is good,” said the archbishop in his message during the celebration of the Feast of the immaculate Conception on Dec. 9.
Cardinal Tagle, a recognized theologian, was appointed to the International Theological Commission, which he served since 1997.
He was named bishop of the Imus Diocese in the Philippines in October 2001. In 2011, he was appointed metropolitan archbishop of Manila.
In November 2012, during the last consistory of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, he was made cardinal.
In 2014, Cardinal Tagle succeeded Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga as president of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s charity network.