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Publication Date : 25-02-2014

 

“A traditionalist cardinal with a sense of his own splendor is a magnificent beast, like a mammoth draped in embroidery,” noted the Guardian. But under Pope Francis, “they may become an endangered species.”

Francis is just two weeks shy of being a year on the Chair of Peter Saturday. He made his first appointments of 19 cardinals, including four Latin Americans, two Africans, and two Asians, one of whom is Orlando Beltran Quevedo, 75, from Cotabato. “They look remarkably businesslike,” the Guardian added.

Born in Ilocos Norte, Quevedo was ordained priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1964. Thereafter, he served as bishop of Kidapawan, then as archbishop of Nueva Segovia in Ilocos Sur. He was archbishop of Cotabato when Cardinal Luis Tagle congratulated him an hour before the Vatican broke the news.

Skipped over were archbishops in Venice and Turin, the New York Times noted. (What about Cebu?) Cardinals traditionally led these dioceses. In the past, an appointment to such dioceses, or Curia postings, meant a red hat would follow as a matter of course.

Not anymore. “Francis does not accept mechanisms used before to make careers. Instead, he favours men who worked long years as priests before becoming bishops and shown the merciful pastor style he advocates.”

Most of the new cardinals come from the poorest countries in the world, including Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Haiti. And Francis wrote the then cardinals-to-be an unprecedented letter: See the red hat, not as an honour but a call to service. Accept the nomination with joy, but avoid any sign of worldliness.

It was a gentle but firm corrective to the way the College of Cardinals has traditionally been crammed with people from the bankrolling countries rather than from countries where Catholics form the majorities, the US-based National Catholic Reporter pointed out.

In the last two conclaves, cardinals from the United States cast more ballots to elect the next pope than Brazil and the Philippines combined. Yet, these two nations together represent roughly four times the Catholic population of the United States.

“This contrasts starkly with the past when wealthy donors threw lavish celebrations,” commented John Allen of Boston Globe. “Normally, this week in Rome is like Oscars week in Hollywood. Everyone has a party, a cocktail, and often these are swanky black-tie affairs.”

Robert Mickens, Vatican correspondent for the British Catholic weekly The Tablet, says Francis has begun reforming not only the Vatican but also the papacy itself.

As he held the new cardinal’s hands, Francis murmured: “Quevedo, Quevedo.” Said Quevedo of Mindanao, “I really appreciated that,” the new cardinal from Mindanao said. Along with the new cardinals, Quevedo then went on to embrace the white-haired former pope.

Before the ceremonies started, Benedict XVI, using a cane, discreetly slipped into St. Peter’s Basilica through a side entrance. A wave of
applause erupted from the 185 cardinals present and stunned people in the pews. Some wept when Benedict removed his  zuchetto  or white skullcap in a show of respect as Francis approached to embrace his predecessor.

How can so much history be crammed into a two-hour rite? The first people to be called cardinals, in the sixth century, were deacons of Rome’s seven districts, the Economist recalls. “It was not until much later that non-Italians were given the title and an equivalent status to the cardinals of Rome.”

Benedict resigned voluntarily end of February 2013. He was the first pontiff to do so since Gregory III quit in 1415 to avert schism.

Francis’ first job was as nightclub bouncer. He became the first non-European pope since 741 AD. He is the first Jesuit elected pontiff. In 1534, Saints Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier, Peter Faber and companions organised the Society of Jesus. The Society was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540.

Quevedo’s paper titled “Injustice: The Root of Conflict in Mindanao” sums up his work in the past—and in days ahead as cardinal. “My central conviction is that the root cause of insurgency in the south is injustice to the Moro identity, political sovereignty, and integral
development.”

“This task is far from simple. Muslim and Christian religious leaders have a major role in this. Both the Koran and the Bible teach respect, understanding, reconciliation, and love.”

Muslim leaders here welcomed his appointment.

Quevedo is an “architect of Asian pastoral churches,” the National Catholic Reporter’s Thomas Fox asserts. More than any other living prelate in the region, Quevedo “advocated and designed structures of pastoral Asian churches.”

He is a former secretary general of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and “played an influential role in developing [key] Asian pastoral statements in recent decades. He is widely respected among his Asian peers,” the magazine adds.

“The Church in Asia strives to be inculturated in Asia, rooted in Asia, incarnate in Asia,” Quevedo says. “At the same time, the Church considers the task of interreligious dialogue a pastoral imperative in the common journey of Asian peoples to the Reign of God.”

“In a continent of massive poverty, the Church has to be in dialogue with the poor, so that as a Church of the Poor it can be a humble servant of the peoples of Asia and credibly proclaim the Gospel…”

That resonates with what Francis insists on: “The pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. … God’s face is that of a merciful father who is always patient. A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just… Jesus did not preach his own politics: he accompanied others.”

 

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