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Why Pope Francis’ Appointment of Cardinal Tagle Is Significant

Did Pope Francis just name his successor? Much of the commentary about the appointment of Cardinal Luis Tagle, until now archbishop of Manila, to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples put that question in first or second place. That’s speculation — about which, more later — but the appointment on its own merits is most significant; some have said that Cardinal Tagle is for Pope Francis what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was for St. John Paul II.

The most remarkable thing about Cardinal Tagle’s appointment is that the position was not vacant. Cardinal Fernando Filoni, a widely respected diplomat famous for being the only ambassador not to leave Baghdad during the 2003 Iraq War, is 18 months shy of his 75th birthday and two years shy of completing his second five-year term. Given that Cardinal Tagle is only 62, the retirement of Cardinal Filoni and his replacement by Cardinal Tagle could have taken place in the normal course of events soon enough.

But the Holy Father must have felt a great urgency to get Cardinal Tagle into “Prop,” as the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples is still known in Rome, an abbreviation for its old Latin name, Propaganda Fide.

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