When Pope Francis visits the Philippines in January, we will undoubtedly hear a great deal about that country’s importance on the global religious scene. Partly that’s a matter of raw numbers. Already one of the world’s three largest Catholic nations, it may by some measures lead the pack within a quarter century or so. By 2050, there could be 100 million Catholic Filipinos.
The church also has a charismatic leader in Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila. Only 57, he features prominently in speculation about the next papal election, whenever that might occur. If Tagle is not chosen, it is likely that some Filipino will become the first nonwhite pope since the early Middle Ages.
Philip Jenkins teaches at Penn State and is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He is the author of The Great and Holy War and The Many Faces of Christ.