Cardinal-designate Orlando Quevedo
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Philippines' newly named cardinal works in the heart of the country's Muslim region, and Muslims as well as Catholics praise him and his work.
The chief peace negotiator of the largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said Cotabato's archbishop, Cardinal-designate Orlando Quevedo, "has been very supportive of the peace process."
"Even during the dark days of martial law (in the 1970s), he was really for the protection of human rights here, especially for the Moro people who have been persecuted," said chief negotiator Mohager Iqbal.
Quevedo, 74, will be among 19 men elevated to the College of Cardinals in a consistory at the Vatican Feb. 22.
Iqbal told Catholic News Service that Quevedo has been "very fair" and even-handed about understanding the plight of the Muslims as they fought for the right to self-determination.
Now, after nearly 40 years of conflict that left more than 150,000 dead and many attempts at negotiating peace, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is in the last stages of forging a permanent pact with the government.
Iqbal said he thinks that as a cardinal Quevedo will have a wider reach to the population and can help shape public opinion about the new peace deal.
Quevedo has served in and around Cotabato for the majority of his career.
In his early years, he was the dean of student affairs at Notre Dame University in Cotabato, where seminarians sought him out for advice, said Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Bagaforo.
"He was very, very close to the students," Bagaforo told CNS. "He was very approachable."
Quevedo eventually became president of the university. He was named bishop of Kidapawan in 1980 and archbishop of Nueva Segovia in 1986. Blessed John Paul II named him archbishop of Cotabato in 1998.
Bagaforo said he was "very, very, very much surprised" that a cardinal would come from their region, because the designation has traditionally been conferred in the capital, Manila, or Cebu, in the central Philippines.
"I think it is not because of Cotabato why Archbishop Quevedo was selected to become a cardinal. I think it is because of him, himself, the person of Archbishop Quevedo," Bagaforo said:
He described the cardinal-designate as "very passionate" about his work in promoting basic ecclesial communities, a movement that takes the Church to the grassroots level.