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(UPDATED - 8:24 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines - Manila Archibishop Luis Antonio Tagle is both "consoled" and "terrified" with the thought of becoming a member of the College of Cardinals, the elite body that advises the pontiff and elects his successor upon his death.
On Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI declared before a general audience in St. Peter's Square that he would hold a consistory on November 24 and appoint six new non-European members of the College of Cardinals including the Manila archbishop.
What was both terrifying and consoling to Tagle was the pope's statement that the new cardinals "have the task of helping the Successor of Peter in the performance of his ministry of confirming the brethren in the faith, and the principle and foundation of unity and communion of the Church."
"To be called to collaborate with the Pope as a cardinal both consoles and terrifies me," said Tagle in a statement released on Thursday.
“I am consoled by the trust and love that the Pope shows to me, to the Archdiocese of Manila and indeed to the whole Church in the Philippines. He wants to hear us and to benefit from our experiences of faith and mission. I am also consoled by the assurances of prayer and support from so many people," he added.
Duties of a cardinal
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official in the Roman Catholic Church, ranking just below the Pope and appointed by him as a member of the College of Cardinals during a consistory.
The duties of the cardinals are to attend the meetings of the Sacred College and to make themselves available individually if the pope desires their counsel.
Cardinals also have additional duties either leading many of the church’s dioceses and archdioceses or running the Roman Curia.
The most important function of cardinals in the Church is to elect the Roman Pontiff who usually comes from their rank.
Concerns about pope's health
Religious watchers had not expected there to be another consistory until next year and the surprise announcement sparked concern among Vatican watchers that the elderly pontiff's health may be worse than thought.
Religious observers note that the 85-year-old pope appears to have been particularly hard hit by the child abuse scandals rocking the Church and the betrayal of his personal butler, who was found guilty this month of stealing private memos.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he suffered a stroke while vacationing in the Alps which briefly affected his eyesight and weakened his heart. The Vatican said he suffered another mild stroke in May 2005 after being elected pope.
Tagle already knew
Tagle admitted that he already knew about the appointment but never revealed it to his fellow bishops. The Manila archbishop, along with other Filipino prelates, is currently in Rome for the ongoing Synod of Bishops for New Evangelization.
Tagle said he had learned his appointment from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state. He said he was teary-eyed when the letter about his appointment was read to him.
"Listening to the text of the pope's letter being read out to me, I also felt like -- here it comes...It felt like someone far greater than I am is here, very near," he said.
Tagle, 55, will now be the country’s seventh cardinal joining the line of retired Archbishops Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, 80, of Manila and Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, 81, of Cebu.
Since 1970, those over 80 years old cardinals have not been counted as active. With Tagle’s appointment, the Philippines has a representative in case of a conclave.
Other Filipino cardinals who already passed away include Rufino Cardinal Santos, Julio Cardinal Rosales, Jaime Cardinal Sin and Jose Cardinal Sanchez.