New thriller in Manila: Cardinal Tagle's presidential showdown

Collision course

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle is a Catholic rock star; Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte scorns the Pope and believes in an eye for an eye. Both are loved by the people — so who will prevail? The Catholic Herald takes up the story.

Only one cardinal had their own campaign song at the last conclave. Not an official one, of course: Presumably that would result in an early flight home. The anthem was written by a Filipino rapper called Latigo and set to the tune of YMCA by the Village People. (One wonders whether the arranger knew this was one of the most famous gay anthems in history.) It went like this:

Tagle, I know he is the one. I say Tagle, he is a soldier of god. I say Tagle, he won't do any bad and he'll lead us to do good things . . .

Then came the chorus: "Our next Pope should be Cardinal Tagle . . . "

With his toothy smile and eloquent tongue, the Archbishop of Manila was already a sensation in the Philippines. Now, as voting began in the Sistine Chapel, he was on his way to becoming a global one.

Every Vatican-watcher had Cardinal Tagle on their list of papabile. But there was one obvious drawback: He was only 55. Admittedly, John Paul II was just three years older when he was elected Pope, but the cardinals were reluctant to commit themselves to what might turn out to be a 30-year papacy.

So Cardinal Tagle emerged from the conclave in red, not white, but now familiar to Catholics the world over. He was, in the words of Vaticanologist John Allen, "the Catholic rock star of Asia". After Pope Francis, he was the most charismatic churchman in the world.

But all of sudden Cardinal Tagle is not even the most charismatic man in Manila. Mr Duterte has nudged him aside for that accolade. Now they are heading for a mighty collision over their country's future.

If you follow world affairs, you're likely to have a rough mental image of Mr Duterte: A thuggish-looking, motorbike-riding, Viagra-popping, gun-toting scourge of the criminal class. You may have heard some of his most famous lines: Calling Pope Francis a "son of a whore", joking about raping a dead missionary, promising to fatten the fish in Manila Bay with the corpses of law-breakers. These are what pass for quips in Mr Duterte's circle.


Showdown in the Philippines (The Catholic Herald)

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