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Manila cardinal’s rising star raises hopes for Filipino pope

    Filipino Roman Catholic Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila, delivers his homily as he leads the observance of "Ash Wednesday" which ushers the 45-day Lenten Season Wednesday Feb. 13, 2013 in Manila, Philippines. Cardinal Tagle, is the only Filipino cardinal who is eligible to vote and be voted in the conclave by College of Cardinals to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned two days ago. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

IMUS, Philippines >> Asia’s most prominent Roman Catholic leader knows how to reach the masses: He sings on stage, preaches on TV, brings churchgoers to laughter and tears with his homilies. And he’s on Facebook.

But Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle’s best response against the tide of secularism, clergy sex abuse scandals and rival-faith competition could be his reputation for humility. His compassion for the poor and unassuming ways have impressed followers in his homeland, Asia’s largest Catholic nation, and church leaders in the Vatican.

Tagle’s rising star has opened a previously unimaginable possibility: An Asian pope.

The Filipino prelate’s chances are considered remote, as many believe that Latin America or Africa — with their faster growing Catholic flocks — would be more logical choices if the papal electors look beyond Europe. But even the hint of papal consideration has electrified many in the heavily Catholic Philippines, where past pontiffs had been welcomed by millions with rock-star intensity.

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