March 3, 2015
Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, a Catholic University alumnus, returned to campus Monday, March 2, to deliver the annual Cardinal Dearden Lecture. He spoke on the 50th anniversary of Gaudium et Spes , the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (one of four main constitutions of the Second Vatican Council).
In his lecture, the cardinal - who, at 57 years old, was only a young boy when Gaudium et Spes was written - spoke about the document, the Church in Asia and how it has embraced evangelization, and Pope Francis's recent trip to Asia.
He began his talk saying, "Some people even up to now ask, 'Why does the Church bother with the world? Should not the Church concern itself with strictly spiritual matters?' " The Church cannot be concerned only with God and "neglect human beings" he said, because the Church recognizes the beauty, value, and dignity of every person.
In relating this to the Church in Asia, he shared that two-thirds of the world's population lives in Asia, yet only 3% of Asia's inhabitants are Christian (and half of them live in the Philippines, with the remainder scattered throughout the rest of Asia). This presents unique challenges as Christians attempt to encounter people whose cultures are based on ancient religions older than Christianity.
The cardinal remarked that Christians can find ways to identify with other cultures by studying the food of those cultures. For example, he said, harmony can be understood in Asia through sweet and sour pork. The sweet and the sour work together in harmony. "Don't [study this] in the philosophy classroom," he said, as the audience reacted with laughter. "Do it in a restaurant. Then you'll know what harmony means!"
Cardinal Tagle suggested that instead of making proclamations, the Gospel may be better understood through dialogue. "Encounter people in their cultures," he said. "Make the other person feel that he or she in their culture matters."
When Pope Francis visited the Philippines in January, "I saw at close range some of the directives of Gaudium et Spes being lived out in evangelization by Pope Francis," the cardinal said. In a meeting with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, Cardinal Tagle shared that a young girl who lost everything asked the Pope why God would allow such horrible things to happen in the world. Some in the audience were moved to tears as the cardinal shared Pope Francis's reaction.
"There are some questions that are difficult to answer," Cardinal Tagle said, paraphrasing the Pope. "Sometimes, the best answer is tears. Tears will wash our eyes clean and we will see clearer."
Cardinal Tagle said that through his actions, and reactions to moments such as this, the pope demonstrated that it is only when you encounter actual people that you can achieve solidarity with those who are suffering or poor. "He was not just a teacher, he was a learner," he said. "And he was learning through the faith of these people who suffer. We cannot pretend that we have all the answers. The poor and suffering, they have a wisdom unique to them. Every human person can be a teacher to all of us."
Following the lecture, fans of Cardinal Chito (as he refers to himself) lined up to greet him, ask for blessings, pose for selfies, and get his autograph. The cardinal practiced what he preached as he greeted each person in line and continued to pose for photos even as he was being urged that he needed to move on to another engagement.
Sponsored by Catholic University's School of Theology and Religious Studies, the Dearden lecture honors the late archbishop of Detroit who was known for his work to implement the teachings of Vatican II in the United States.
Cardinal Tagle received his licentiate in sacred theology in 1987 and a doctorate in sacred theology in 1991, both from Catholic University. In May 2014, the University presented him with an honorary doctoral degree in theology, and he delivered the homily at the University's Baccalaureate Mass. He has been archbishop of Manila since 2011, and was named a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. He is among the youngest cardinals in the world.