Pope Francis made global headlines again Sunday evening (Manila time) when he appointed 19 prelates to the rank of cardinal. Of the 19, 16 are under the age of 80, which means they can possibly elect the successor of the Argentine-born Holy Pontiff in case he dies or resigns.
According to the Associated Press, the would-be cardinals come from Italy, Germany, Britain, Nicaragua, Canada, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile, Burkina Faso, the Philippines, and Haiti. The consistory will be held on February 22 at the Vatican City. Consistory refers to the official meeting of the College of Cardinals as announced by the pope.
Among the newly-appointed cardinals is Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of the Archdiocese of Cotabato. Quevedo will turn 75 on March. He was ordained as priest in 1964, his official biography at the website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines says.
Quevedo will be the eighth Filipino cardinal in history, following Rufino Santos, Julio Rosales, Jaime L. Sin, Ricardo Vidal, Jose Tomas Sanchez, Gaudencio Rosales, and Luis Antonio Tagle. Of the seven, only Vidal, Rosales, and Tagle are still living.
More notably, Quevedo will be the first cardinal from Mindanao. The Vatican Insider praised Quevedo for being a “leader in an area that is a melting pot of Christians and Muslims, a respected peace advocate, and a knowledgeable observer of the conflict ridden situation in Mindanao.” It also noted that he once served as the Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences.
What can perhaps be regarded as the only blot on Quevedo’s stellar career is that he was once implicated in the so-called ‘pajero bishops’ scandal that erupted in mid-2011. It was claimed that the administration of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lavished gifts on the local Catholic hierarchy (apart from towing their line on issues like mining and reproductive health) to maintain their support, giving birth to the derisive moniker ‘Diocese of Malacanang.’
Back then, Margarita Juico, chair of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), revealed that seven Catholic prelates asked for luxury cars from the agency with the approval of Arroyo. Juico eventually apologized to the bishops after it was later revealed that no one among them in fact received pajeros (or any luxury cars, for that matter).
The controversy centered on Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, who asked Arroyo for funds to buy a brand new Mitsubishi Montero 2008 during his birthday. While Pueblos admitted during a Senate hearing about the issue that he committed a ‘lapse in judgment,’ he insisted he wanted to have that vehicle so he can “further promote and work for peace in the CARAGA region in northern Mindanao.”
For his part, Quevedo explained in a statement published on MindaNews that he “never requested or received from PCSO any vehicle” for his personal use. He clarified that the Toyota Grandia vehicle he acquired through PCSO funds was used for his diocese’s Community Based Health Program.
“We also wanted to use the vehicle for our training team to give seminars for community organizing at the grassroots, capacity building, training of Indigenous Peoples’ leaders, as well as to bring sick people to hospitals when necessary,” he said.