MANILA, Philippines — Cardinal-designate Jose Advincula, one of the 13 new cardinals recently appointed by Pope Francis, said he believes human rights are central to the church’s mission.

“Protecting human rights is never an option. They are at the heart of every church’s mission. The dignity of the human person is the key to social problems that beset a nation,” Advincula said in a statement.

He said this was true especially for priests because many of those rights were at the “very heart” of the church’s teachings.

“The church cannot simply ignore human rights, because there is a moral dimension to them. The right to life, for example, is consistent with the church’s teaching that there is dignity in the human person,” he added. His remarks were reported by

The cardinal-designate also told Vatican News: “Poverty is one of the reasons why we have social problems” and that he saw education as “the way to develop the people so that they can earn more in order to live a more decent life.”

After Pope Francis announced the Archbishop of Capiz as one of the new cardinals Oct. 25, the cardinal-designate said he thought it was part of the pope’s outreach to the peripheries — or maybe, he added, it was because he had been establishing mission stations and mission schools in far-flung areas of the Philippines.

In July 2019, as Archbishop of Capiz, he published a pastoral letter on suicide. He said church leaders would never have all the answers as to why suicides occur, but they can still provide comfort to their flock, and he called for them “to cultivate a ‘culture of presence.'” reported at the time on the letter, noting that the cardinal-designate stressed the role of families in preventing suicides.

“This can be done if parents journey with, if they give quality time to, and if they listen to their children and other members of the family,” he said. “When children see and feel that love exists in their family and homes, they realize more the value and beauty of life.”

He also said the government and schools should strive to be an extension of the family “where everyone feels that they belong, are accepted and are loved.”

He called on school administrators to address bullying and for the government to strengthen suicide prevention programs and interventions.

“When we know of people experiencing depression, we should reach out to them,” said Advincula. “Even if we are not mental health experts, often what depressed people need are others who are ready to listen without judgment.”

The 68-year old archbishop’s status as a cardinal will be formalized at a consistory in the Vatican Nov. 28.