MANILA - In an emotion-filled thanksgiving Mass at the Manila Cathedral on Monday, bishops, priests, and the laypersons prayed over Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle as he prepares to leave for his new Vatican post.
Tagle knelt in front of the church's sanctuary as those in attendance raised their hands towards him while praying.
"Protect him with Your loving embrace. Hold him by the hand and keep him close to Your heart as he embarks on his new mission," the prayer led by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said.
In behalf of the archdiocese, Pabillo thanked Tagle's "great effort" in his ministry in Manila while doing works in Rome and other parts of the world.
"Even if you are tired after having come from half of the world, you make the effort to give talks, to join in our meetings, and lead our meetings. Even to visit us when somebody has died in the family, when somebody has gone sick, you really take time to be with us to make us feel your presence," Pabillo said.
In December last year, Tagle was appointed by Pope Francis to lead the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, one of the leading departments in the Roman Curia.
Prior to this, the Filipino cardinal has been traveling outside the Philippines as head of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of global Catholic charities. Tagle has also been a constant leading figure in several synods of bishops in Rome under Francis's pontificate. He was also one of the main speakers in Vatican's landmark summit on sexual abuse.
"Every departure, every separation brings pain but if we look at it on the other side we in the Archdiocese of Manila have been very much privileged in this eight years that you have been with us," Pabillo added.
"We assure you of our prayers. You can always count on our support and if in case you feel tired of the work on that part of the world be sure that you have a home among us here in Manila."
For his homily, Tagle reflected on the topic of thanksgiving without directly addressing his impending departure.
"Don't give thanks according to your criteria and norms. Kapag tayo lang ang namili kung kailan magpapasalamat siguro mas maraming reklamo kaysa pasalamat," the cardinal said.
"God, we may not always understand, but in faith we know God is good... God's designs are not our designs. Sometimes God's designs disrupt our plans but we say 'I believe God is good.'"
But at the end of his homily, Tagle was visibly holding his tears as his voice cracked while saying, "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever."
The cardinal still has several appointments to attend in Manila before leaving for Rome. He is expected to lead the opening of the four-day Philippine Conference on New Evangelization at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
Meanwhile, there is still no word from the Vatican on who will replace Tagle as the archbishop of Manila.
“Sa ngayon ay hinihintay pa ito at mismong ang Santo Papa ang maghahayag nito kung sino ang papalit sa Cardinal. Maaari ding caretaker na muna ang mamumuno sa Archdiocese sakaling makaalis na ang Cardinal,” said Rev. Fr. Roy Bellen, the spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Manila.
In the Catholic Church, an apostolic administrator is usually assigned to lead a diocese or an archdiocese during "sede vacante", the period when there is no ruling bishop. The prelate acts as a caretaker of the diocese until the newly chosen bishop takes possession of the diocese. With a report from Abner Mercado, ABS-CBN News