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CqThe Filipino "Cardinal of Peace"

When Orlando Cardinal Quevedo signs his name, he puts O.M.I. behind it.  Officially the initials stand for “Oblates of Mary Immaculate.”  But Cardinal Quevedo says they also stand for his priestly philosophy – “Out More than In.”

When Pope Francis named Archbishop Quevedo a Cardinal in February 2014, he selected a man who is uncomfortable with the trappings of the position.

“I never really wanted to even be a bishop so I wear the title of Cardinal very lightly,” said Cardinal Quevedo.  “I think I am the smallest Cardinal in the whole world, both in height and stature.”

Orlando Quevedo was born March 11, 1939 in Laoag, Ilocos Norte.  Three days after he was born the Vatican asked the Oblates to set up a mission in the Philippines.  One of their earliest missions, run by American Oblates, was the parish attended by the Quevedo family.

Even as a young boy Orlando was impressed with the Oblates’ total commitment to the poor of the community.  The Oblates wore Army boots.  “You don’t wear Army boots if you want to live a comfortable life,” he said.

Cardinal Quevedo’s first job was working for the Oblates – but he wasn’t very good at it.

While in grade school he sold The Mindanao Cross, a Catholic weekly newspaper published by the Oblates.  The paper cost ten cents.  He got a nickel for each copy he sold and the Oblates would get the other nickel.  But he rarely made any money.

“I would take 50 copies but only sell about 35,” said Cardinal Quevedo.  “I was too embarrassed to bring the rest back so I would buy the remaining copies, using up all my profit.”

After high school Cardinal Quevedo entered the seminary in Quezon City.  He then spent several years in the United States preparing for the priesthood.  At first he had an idealistic view of America.  But before long he realized this country was far from perfect.

For example, on one occasion he got on a bus to go to a restaurant.  All the white passengers were seated in the front, and all the black passengers in the back.  He sat in the middle.  At the restaurant he didn’t know which restroom to use.  He chose to be black.

After ordination in 1964 Fr. Quevedo returned to the Philippines.  Much of his work focused on education.  He was a professor, dean of students and for six years served as President of Notre Dame University in Cotabato City. 

The high schools and colleges run by the Oblates in the Philippines are unusual because they have both Christian and Muslim students.   “There has been a lot of bias against Muslims in the Philippines for many years,” Cardinal Quevedo explained.  “We must trust the Muslims.  I am so thankful that the Oblates have been working with the Muslim community for a long time.”

As Cardinal Quevedo rose in the ranks of academia, he felt something was missing – his connection with the poor.  So he spent two years serving as a parish priest in Jolo.   The area has been a hot spot of conflict between Muslims and Christians.  Murders and kidnappings are not uncommon. 

In 1997 Bp. Benjamin de Jesus, O.M.I. was murdered outside the cathedral.  His successor, Oblate Bp. Angelito Lampon, sometimes travels with armed guards.

In 1980 Cardinal Quevedo was named Bishop of the Prelature of Kidapawan, which three years later became a diocese.  In 1986 he was named Archbishop of Nueva Segovia, and in 1998 he became Archbishop of Cotabato.

Being a Catholic bishop did have one advantage – it gave Cardinal Quevedo a platform to speak out against injustice.  His gentle, laid-back personality disappears when he talks about people who choose violence over peace.  In 2009, for example, he lambasted both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during a time of escalating violence.

His words were clear and forceful: “From the depths of my soul I can only cry out to all warring parties, ‘Enough is enough!’  End your so-called search and punish operations.  End your terrorist bombings.  End your bombardments, end your raids, all you warring parties!”

Cardinal Quevedo began to be known as the “Cardinal of Peace.”  Earlier this year, when he had his picture taken with Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, the newspaper headline read, “Boxing Champ Meets Peace Champ.”

Even though he is a national figure, Cardinal Quevedo admits he sometimes longs for a simpler ministry.  He feels trapped in the “palace,” as the archbishop’s residence is known.  He would rather be out in the barrios or the humble mountain villages.

Frequently he spends three or four days visiting the poorest parishes in his archdiocese.  He usually stays with a farming family in a humble house that has no running water or indoor bathroom.  Pigs and goats sleep outside his window.  And he loves it.

He does get some “luxuries” from the villagers now that he is a Cardinal.  He usually is given bottled water instead of well water.  His mosquito nets don’t have holes in them anymore.
Cardinal Quevedo said his life now is one of great contrasts.  One day he can be staying at a humble village in the Philippine mountains.  Three days later he’s at the Vatican sitting under a magnificent Michelangelo fresco.

Cardinal Quevedo said he was shocked to find out he had been named a Cardinal.  When an associate told him of the appointment, he dismissed it.  A few hours later he checked his cell phone and noticed hundreds of congratulatory messages.

“I thought there had been a disaster, like a typhoon or earthquake,” said Cardinal Quevedo.  “I then found out that the ‘disaster’ was that I had been named a Cardinal.”

But to the people of Cotabato, especially the poor, his elevation to the rank of Cardinal was a moment of great joy.  It is an example of Pope Francis’ desire for a simpler, poorer Church.
That suits Cardinal Quevedo just fine.

> Watch a Mass with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, OMI