Manila (AsiaNews) In reacting to the decision by Pope Benedict XVI to name him among the 15 new cardinals, Mgr Gaudencio B. Rosales, archbishop of Manila, said he wanted to offer "new hope to the poor, to those who suffer, are nameless and without dignity". The newly appointed prince of the Church spoke to Radio Veritas after mass in the Manila cathedral during which Mgr Antonio Franco, the Apostolic Nuncio, made the announcement to the community. This was followed by a long applause from the worshippers attending mass.
Despite laryngitis Archbishop Rosales was able to say a few words. "I do not deserve this. I am completely unworthy," he humbly said as he spoke to the faithful to thank them for praying for him. "This added responsibility does not mean any honour for me but [represents] greater service to the poor around us, who have been neglected by those in power".
Filipino President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was quick to extend her government's solidarity to the cardinal in his fight against poverty. In congratulating Rosales for his appointment, Ms Arroyo said: "We share the joy and pride of the entire Filipino Catholic community on this event. Our solidarity with Cardinal Rosales will be unsullied in the fight against poverty".
Cardinal Rosales has always been on the forefront of the fight for social justice. Poverty, not politics, is for him the main issue that the Filipino Church must tackle. As part of this commitment, he launched a plan in 2004 called Pondo ng Pinoy (Money for Filipinos) inspired by the so-called 'theology of scraps' whereby the dioceses of Manila and 12 other ecclesiastic provinces urged the faithful to save some scrapsthe equivalent of five Euro centsfor the poor every day. With the money raised in each parish this way funds can go to economic and social improvement plans.
According to Mgr Ruperto Santos, rector of the Filipino College in Rome, Rosales' appointment is a "clear signal that the Holy Father is paying attention to the Filipino Church and that he trust the archbishop of Manila".
"He is a man of prayer, a simple and humble man, closely involved in pastoral activities," said Santos, who knows the new cardinal very well and is certain that even as a cardinal, Rosales will "always continue to visit his parishes, lay communities and the religieux. His home will always be open".
Rector Santos met Archbishop Rosales in Manila just a few days ago. "Many were already saying that he was going to be cardinal. He smiled, lowered his head and told everyone that his commitment would always be for peace in the country and improving the conditions of the poor."
In commenting the appointment of three Asians to the College of Cardinals, Mgr Santos said that "they are the expression of the Church's will to renew its missionary spirit in Asia. South Korea, the Philippines and Hong Kong are going to play a primary role in the evangelisation of the continent and the world".
Rosales, 73, is the sixth Filipino cardinal and one of three still alive. He replaces the late Jaime Cardinal Sin who led the Rosario Revolution in 1986. The other two prelates are Ricardo Vidal, archbishop of Cebu, and José Sanchez, cardinal emeritus.