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VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis is giving a new post to a Filipino cardinal seen as soft on morality.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, Philippines, has been picked to head the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Pope Francis announced the new appointment on Sunday. To become prefect of the congregation, Cdl. Tagle has to leave his post as Manila's archbishop.
Some see the appointment as putting Cdl. Tagle one step closer to potentially becoming pope. Cardinal Tagle was seen as papabile, a likely candidate for the papacy, in the lead-up to the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis.
The 62-year-old has been a proponent of allowing Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried on a case-by-case basis.
In March 2015, the Catholic Herald asked Cdl. Tagle about Communion for those in adulterous second unions. He answered, "Every situation for those who are divorced and remarried is quite unique. To have a general rule might be counterproductive in the end."
"My position at the moment is to ask, 'Can we take every case seriously and is there, in the tradition of the Church, paths towards addressing each case individually?'" he continued. "This is one issue that I hope people will appreciate is not easy to say 'no' or to say 'yes' to. We cannot give one formula for all."
During the 2014 Synod on the Family in Rome, Cdl. Tagle trumpeted the synod's "spirit of listening."
The 2014 and 2015 synods were panned by faithful Catholics, outraged by the push to grant Holy Communion to divorcees who civilly remarried without a decree of nullity for their previous marriage.
Cardinal Tagle is president of Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-run charity that has member-organizations around the world. The charity recently came under fire for having a predator priest working for one of its member organizations in Africa.
A CNN investigation published late last month found that Fr. Luk Delft, a Belgian priest with the Salesian fathers, was allowed to work for Caritas in the Central African Republic (CAR), despite a prior conviction of child sexual abuse.
In Belgium in 2012, Delft was convicted on charges of child sex abuse and child pornography. As a result, he was prohibited from interacting with minors for the next 10 years.
Also in 2012, Delft traveled to CAR to work for Caritas in a refugee camp. Both the Salesian order and the Belgian probations committee allowed him to fly to Africa. He became the director of Caritas' operations in the CAR.
While in CAR, Fr. Delft allegedly sexually abused at least two underage boys.
Alban Alain was 13 years old when he says Fr. Delft sexually abused him four years ago.
"It's a horrible thing that he did to me," Alain told CNN.
Tagle has been the president of Caritas since 2015. However, Caritas is structured as a confederation of smaller charities, which has the effect that its member organizations — like the one where Delft worked until earlier this year — are largely autonomous.
Michel Roy, former secretary-general of Caritas, claims he informed the Salesians, Cdl. Tagle and the Caritas member organization in CAR about a therapist's letter in 2017 that stated that Delft should not be trusted around children.
"I informed Caritas CAR about the therapist's letter and asked them to ensure that the issue was followed up with his order," Roy penned in a recent statement. "I was told that the issue had been resolved."
Delft remained on staff at Caritas CAR, in spite of the sex abuse allegations, until CNN contacted the organization earlier this year.
Born in 1957 in Manila, Tagle was ordained a priest of the Manila archdiocese in 1982. In the years that followed, he took on various roles in the diocese of Imus; for instance, he was the spiritual director (1982–1983) and later the rector (1983–1985) of the diocesan seminary.
In 2001, Tagle was appointed bishop of the Imus diocese. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Tagle archbishop of Manila. He soon elevated Tagle to the cardinalate, just months before Benedict's resignation from the papacy in 2013.
Tagle generally prefers to go by the nickname "Chito" instead of clerical titles. His leadership style has been compared to that of Pope Francis, earning him the label "the Asian Pope Francis."
In becoming prefect for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cdl. Tagle is replacing 73-year-old Cdl. Fernando Filoni, who has held the post since 2011. Filoni is now being re-assigned the new Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, replacing Cdl. Edwin O'Brien.
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