Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle giving a mass to the faithful at a Catholic gathering in Manila. Image Credit: AFP

Manila: Popular TV host and movie star Kris Aquino, the younger sister of President Benigno Aquino led Filipinos in promoting Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as the next pope, a TV report said.

“I hope [that will happen],” Aquino told ABS CBN, adding, “It [having a Filipino Pope] might not happen in our generation yet, but we never know.” She added: “Let us not hope too much.”

Explaining the basis of her choice, the young Aquino said it would be good for all Catholics to have a young Pope. Tagle is only 55.

She also said that Cardinal Tagle officiated mass for the Aquino family last Christmas, after the two houses of Congress passed a controversial health bill that allows government subsidy for a family planning programme for the poor, including the use of ‘artificial’ family planning programme.

The Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is open only to natural family planning programme.

“I think it can now be revealed. It happened a long time ago. On Christmas Eve, he officiated mass for our family. But we were requested not to talk about it,” said Aquino, adding, “At the time, I really believed in him. I realised that there would be healing.”

Meanwhile, CBCP secretary general Msgr. Joselito Asis claimed that Cardinal Tagle is not an insider in Rome, unlike other rival cardinals who are Vatican-based.

“When you’re assigned in Rome or at the Vatican office, you have the perspective of what is happening in the whole world,” explained Msgr Asis.

Earlier, in a public seminar, Cardinal Tagle talked about the importance of reaching out by the Catholic Church. But he referred to young people, not to politicians.

“The young want to be connected. That is the basic of the faith — [to be] connected to God, connected to others, to the Church. We need to go back to that fundamental,” he said, adding the Catholic Church must intensify its concern for the poor.

He is widely regarded for his balancing act of fusing progressive and conservative doctrines.

Last year, before Pope Benedict’s announcement, the National Catholic Reporter had already mentioned 11 names as Pope-potentials.

Three cardinals, one Italian, one Canadian, and one Argentinean were categorised by NCR as “front runners”. Three others, including one Hungarian, one Italian, and one Brazilian, were categorised as “possibilities”. Those in the “long shot category” were one Italian, one Ghanaian, and one Filipino (Tagle).

Vatican analyst Sandro Magister earlier said an Asian Pope would be perfect for the modern era.

The new Pope could be named before Easter, in April.