Pope Francis makes significant changes to Congregation for Bishops
From Vatican Insider
In a clear sign of renewal, Pope Francis has made significant changes in the membership of the Congregation for Bishops which oversees the process for the selection of bishops in Europe, the Americas and Oceania
In another very clear sign of renewal, Pope Francis has made highly significant changes in the membership of the Congregation for Bishops, demonstrating that he wants more pastorally-minded bishops involved in the selection process of new bishops.
He gave this signal not only by appointing 12 new members to that body, but also by not confirming 14 of its existing membership, including some hitherto very influential cardinals.
The Congregation for Bishops is that Vatican body of cardinals and bishops that oversees the process of selection of candidates to be bishops in Europe, the Americas and Oceania, with the exception of those for the Oriental Churches. The nuncios in different countries send the names of three candidates to the Congregation whenever a diocese needs a new bishop. The congregation vets the names proposed and then, in a plenary meeting held every two weeks, the more than 30 members of this body vote for the candidates to be bishops in this part of the world. After the vote has taken place, the Prefect of the Congregation, presents the final result to the Pope and, while he has freedom to choose whom he wishes, he normally approves the first name on the list.
In this latest move, which the Vatican announced on December 16, Pope Francis confirmed Cardinal Marc Ouellet (Canada) as prefect of the Congregation. He has held that post since 2010, and it had been widely expected that the Argentinean Pope would confirm him.
More significantly, however, the Pope - who last June stated clearly that he wants bishops to be poor, close to their people and not with ‘the psychology of princes’ -, has appointed 12 new members to that congregation, including Archbishop Pietro Parolin, his new Secretary of State, Cardinals Donald Wuerl (USA), Joao Braz de Aviz (Brazil and Roman Curia), Kurt Koch (Switzerland and Roman Curia), and Archbishop Vincent Nichols (UK).
At the same time, he confirmed 18 out of the 33 former members of this body, among them Cardinals George Pell (Australia), Leonardo Sandri (Argentina and the Roman Curia), William Levada (USA) and Tarcisio Bertone (Italy) – though the latter will leave that body when he celebrates his 80th birthday in December 2014.
Apart from the new appointments, surely the most striking aspect of the Pope’s decision was the non-confirmation of several very highly influential members of the congregation, among them the American cardinals Raymond Burke and Justin Rigali, the Italian cardinals Mauro Piacenza and Angelo Bagnasco, and the Spanish cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela.
From the perspective of the Catholic Church in the USA, the non-confirmation of Cardinals Rigali and Burke is particularly significant. Sources say Rigali, who stepped down as archbishop of Philadelphia in 2011, had played a major role in the selection of bishops for dioceses in the USA for some two decades. Likewise, Cardinal Burke, the head of the Vatican’s Highest Tribunal – the Signatura Apostolica- and a leading figure in the conservative wing of the Church, had become a most influential player in the selection of US bishops ever since Benedict XVI appointed him to that congregation in 2009.
Their non-confirmation, along with that of others like Cardinal Piacenza – another exponent of the more conservative wing of the Church, is a clear signal that Pope Francis wants more pastorally minded bishops involved in the selection process. Indeed, the appointment of Cardinal Wuerl and Archbishop Nichols will be welcomed in the English speaking world, where they are seen as good pastors.
The 12 new members are:
Cardinal Francis Robles Ortega of Guadalajara, Mexico;
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington (USA);
Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia;
Cardinal Kurt Koch of Switzerland, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity;
Cardinal João Braz de Aviz of Brazil, prefect of the Congregation for Religious;
Archbishop Pietro Parolin of Italy, the Secretary of state;
Archbishop Benjamin Stella of Italy, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy;
Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri of Italy, Secretary General of the Synod for Bishops;
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England;
Archbishop Paolo Rabitti , the retired archbishop of Ferrara-Comacchio, Italy;
Archbishop Gualtiero Bassetti, Perugia-Citta della Pieve (Italy);