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

Manila: Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle is among the top ten candidates for the next pope to replace Emeritus Pope Benedict, reports have said.

“When it comes to the ten candidates most likely to become the next pope, I agree that Cardinal Tagle’s name is one those most often heard in the ratings,” Father Francisco Lucas of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Social Communications and Mass Media said in an interview by radio station dzMM on Sunday.

Lucas said although Tagle figured strongly in the ratings, there is no assurance that he will be the next pope as, after all, the Philippines never had a pope.

Tagle at 55, is the youngest cardinal in the country’s history and is certainly the most affable. His moving sermons are among the most followed by Filipino parishioners.

Although the Philippines is considered the bastion of Catholicism in Southeast Asia, the country had never featured strongly in the papal selection process which is dominated by traditionally Catholic strongholds in Europe.

Filipinos had been closely watching the papal selection process following the announcement by Pope Benedict that he was now officially in retirement due to health reasons.

With Pope Benedict now officially in retirement, Catholic cardinals from all over the world last Friday started a process of picking the next leader of the world’s largest church.

While the dzMM report said Tagle figures strongly in surveys, among Church leaders, CNA-EWTN News on the other hand, said no front-runner stands out among the 115 cardinal meeting in the Vatican who will vote among themselves the next pope.

“They will also use the general congregations, the closed-door consultations preceding a conclave, to discuss future challenges such as better Vatican management, the need for improved communication and the continuing sexual abuse crisis,” the CNA-EWTN report said.

One thing for sure on the other hand, is that whoever succeeds Benedict will lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics at one of the most tumultuous periods in the Church’s 2,000-year history.