Manila, June 19, 2003 By Ann Corvera (Star) A Church prelate said the next head of the country’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese would likely be someone "less political" than Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin.

Sin, the outspoken and controversial cardinal who has substantially influenced Philippine politics over the past two decades, retires in August.

"I think (the Vatican) would try to get somebody who will be able to run a big diocese and they will consider somebody not too young, not too old. And probably somebody who is less political," said Right Rev. Jesus Romulo Rañada, a monsignor of the Diocese of Novaliches.

Rañada admitted in an interview with cable network ABS-CBN News Channel’s "Strictly Politics" Tuesday night that Sin is "very political" in the sense that he frequently gets involved in temporal politics.

"My own personal reading of the situation (is that) sometimes, (the Vatican) would put somebody there quite the opposite of their predecessors," said Rañada, who is also the diocesan spokesman for Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani, who is accused of sexually harassing his secretary.

But retired monsignor, Right Rev. Nico Bautista, said the crises besetting the Catholic Church in the Philippines require a "healing bishop."

Bautista was apparently referring to the sex scandals involving Bacani and resigned Antipolo bishop Crisostomo Yalung aside from the church’s multimillion Internet venture that failed last year.

Bautista, head of the Catholic organization Mass Media Ministry, noted that the credibility of a candidate to the episcopacy is vital because a prelate would be a "washout" without it.

To become a Catholic bishop, Bautista said, one must be "prayerful and a man of God" and should possess a "heart of a pastor in attending to the needs of the people, especially the poor, the week, the oppressed and the helpless."

A bishop must also have the "intellectual competence to be able to address the problems" and fidelity to Catholic orthodoxy should also be a key criterion in choosing the next archbishop of Manila, Bautista added.

Bautista said he received a letter from Papal Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Franco, instructing him and other monsignori to "name the problems or the needs of the Archdiocese of Manila and name three persons in the order of capability and competence to address these problems."

Both Bautista and Rañada agreed that the next archbishop ought to be someone who is not nearing his retirement age (75), although Archbishop Angelo Giuseppi Cardinal Roncalli was already near his retirement age when he was became Pope John XXIII and was even later beatified.

The two monsignori also denied that there have been "political maneuverings" to ruin the credibility of supposed candidates.

"The Church is both human and divine. As human, it partakes of politics but ultimately it is the Holy Spirit that does the work," Bautista said.

Church leaders are now debating whether devotion to orthodoxy or managerial skills should be the crucial criterion in choosing the next Manila archbishop.

One side claims that the "temporalities" of the archdiocese are such that the next archbishop must be like Sin, a diocesan prelate who was named Archbishop of Manila after averting a financial scandal in the Diocese of Jaro.

But other church leaders claim that the prevalent moral and social issues require that the next archbishop display more devotion to Catholic orthodoxy.

The primary candidates are believed to be Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi, O.P., Lipa Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president and Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, Zamboanga Archbishop Carmelo Morelos and Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla.

Of the five candidates, only two come from religious orders, Legaspi (Dominican) and Quevedo (Oblate), while the rest are diocesan prelates.

In age, the youngest is Quevedo, 64, followed by Legaspi, 68; Capalla, 69; Rosales, 71; and Morelos, 73. Under Catholic canon law, prelates must retire from official duties at the age of 75.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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