By Steve Angeles ABS-CBN North America Bureau

ANAHEIM, Calif. – As Bishop Oscar Solis celebrated a Filipino mass at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim California, one name was in the prayers of some two thousand Filipinos that attended: Cardinal Luis Tagle.
Tagle is the Archbishop of Manila whom some media outlets consider a strong candidate to replace outgoing Pope Benedict XVI.
“I know you’re expecting Cardinal Tagle to be the main celebrant tonight. I’m sorry to disappoint you. I hope to make up for the absence of Cardinal Tagle tonight. He usually gives 20 minutes homily. So I’m going to make it 40,” Bishop Solis joked as he opened the mass.
The Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop added, “We all pray for all the cardinal electors and we pray that the cardinals be guided by the Holy Spirit to choose the right Shepherd for our time and our church.”

Cardinal Luis Tagle was supposed to participate at the three-day long Religious Education Congress by hosting some workshops and celebrating the Filipino mass.

However, he had to cancel due to a request from Rome, fueling speculation that something bigger may be in store for Asia’s top bet.

Filipinos believe Tagle can become a fresh face for the Catholic Church, addressing key issues.
“It’s long overdue that we get somebody other than a westerner to represent more than two billion Catholics. So it will be a great honor for the Filipinos to get a Filipino pope,” said Bella Arnaldo of Milpitas, California.

“We hope to resolve the issues about sexual abuse and abortion which is a big problem,” said Linda Belayo of Tracy, California.

Tagle will be joined in Rome by a controversial Cardinal, former Los Angeles archbishop Roger Mahoney, whom critics believe should not participate in the conclave.

Mahoney was stripped of his public duties after the Archdiocese of Los Angeles released documents showed his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse scandals. He went through a deposition on Saturday before departing for Rome. Solis, the highest ranking Filipino Catholic in the U.S. believes Mahoney, his former boss, should have the right to vote as a cardinal who remains in good standing.

Solis asks that Filipinos continue their strong faith, as the archdiocese reels from the public disclosure of files that detail alleged clergy abuse.

Solis adds that he wasn’t surprised that the Pope had stepped down due to poor health and is proud that his fellow countryman Tagle, the seventh Filipino cardinal, has been viewed by media as a possible candidate.

It is still unknown what the 55-year-old Tagle’s involvement is in the conclave. In 2005, Cardinal Ricardo Vidal became the only Filipino to cast a vote for the papacy.

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