By Tim Jimenez
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – One of the keynote speakers of the World Meeting of Families is coming to town, from across the globe, and getting an honorary degree from La Salle University on Friday. He’s also energizing many Filipino-American Catholics in the region.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle is the Archbishop of Manilla in the Philippines. Before he receives the degree at La Salle Friday evening, he is guest lecturing as part of the University’s Diplomat In Residence program. It is free, open to the public and scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at the Dan Rodden Theatre on campus.
The man most commonly referred to as “Cardinal Chito” is seen as a rising star in the Catholic Church. Church pundits even mentioned him as a potential papal candidate in 2013.
“He and Pope Francis – they have a lot of similarities, especially with a spirit of serving the poorest of the poor,” said Father Efren V. Esmilla, pastor of Our Lady of Hope parish in the Logan section of North Philadelphia.
Our Lady of Hope serves a lot of Filipino American Catholics. The Cardinal, while in town for the World Meeting of Families, will be celebrating mass at the church on Thursday, September 24.
“At 7 p.m.,” Father Esmilla said. “And we’re expecting a lot of visitors coming in from different parts of the country and world. Many Filipinos who will be joining the World Meeting of Families.”
Sister Gertrude Borres, who works with Father Esmilla at the church, helped secure the visit.
“We wrote to him early – February and March – and in spite of his heavy, hectic schedule, his secretary responded and said, ‘Yes, I’ll be there and I’ll say mass for you.'”
She said many in the community will be coming together for the service.
“Eighty choir members from different Filipino choirs here – New Jersey and Philadelphia,” she said.
Cardinal Tagle’s visit, along with Pope Francis’ Philadelphia trip, has the Our Lady of Hope congregation thrilled, Father Esmilla said. It will also be the second time this year he will be in the presence of the Pope.
“It’s a blessing that I saw him already in the Philippines and now, here in Philadelphia, I will see him once again,” he said.
Pope Francis’ January trip to the Philippines included a visit with those dealing with the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. The 2013 storm, which claimed 6,300 lives, is the deadliest Philippine typhoon in modern history.
There was also an outdoor mass in Manilla that was attended by 6 million people according to Philippine officials.
“And it was pouring rain during that time,” Esmilla recalled. “I was there at seven o’clock and the mass was three o’clock. People stayed overnight to get a spot!”
With that experience, Father Esmilla has a message for those who are interested but hesitant to come to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis.
“Do not be afraid. Take courage.”