Pope under watch as Tagle tests positive

Published September 17, 2020, 4:26 PM

by Manila Bulletin

The Vatican announced last weekend that Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, tested positive for COVID-19 on his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the Philippines on the evening of September 10.

The Holy See press office confirmed the news to the Italian news media, with the assurance that there is no concern he could have infected Pope Francis, according to Matteo Bruni, director of the press office.

“There is no concern that he could have infected Pope Francis, with whom he is very close, because the cardinal had his last meeting with the pontiff on August 29,” he said. The cardinal did not have the virus when he tested for it at the Vatican health and hygiene unit on September 7.

“Therefore he was either infected in the 48 hours between that date and his departure for Manila or perhaps on the long flight from Rome to Manila where he arrived last evening (Roman time), September 10, the Holy See press office added.

Caloocan Bishop Virgilio David, acting president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said Cardinal Tagle might have contracted COVID-19 at the airport or in the plane. “He probably could not avoid being greeted by people, especially overseas Filipino workers who recognized him at the airport or inside the plane,” he said. Bishop David said Cardinal Tagle had flown to the Philippines “for a brief summer break” and to visit his elderly parents in Imus, Cavite. He is asymptomatic and is now undergoing a 14-day quarantine, he said.

Cardinal Tagle is the latest well-known Filipino to get infected by COVID-19. As of September 15, the Philippines had 269,407 confirmed cases, with 4,663 deaths and 207,352 recoveries.

On September 13, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the number of COVID-19 cases in the world had hit a new record of 307,930 new infections in the past 24 hours. The WHO said that it has now registered more than 28 million cases around the world, with over 917,400 deaths.

“It’s going to get tougher in October and November; we are going to see more mortality,” WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge said. The continuing rise of COVID-19 cases around the world, especially in Europe, is a matter of great concern.

But it is our hope that the picture is improving in the Philippines which has succeeded in flattening the curve of new cases. We are truly grateful for this, a result of the government protocols and the public’s support for them.

And we are grateful that Cardinal Tagle continues to show no symptoms as he undergoes quarantine. Pope Francis also continues to be free of infection, despite his weekly audiences which he has revived after six months. We pray that they will remain healthy as the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.