Archive for the ‘Consistory 2015’ Category

Francis chooses Brussels and Barcelona


Rocco Palmo writes about the new appointments in Brussels and Barcelona made by Pope Francis. These come on the heels of new archbishops in Bologna and Palermo.

Rocco opens, “While Rome’s chattering circuit is consumed with the latest round of leak theatrics surrounding Vatican finances and the excesses of some prelates, the Pope has instead taken to doubling down on work and complete a “lightning round” of appointments to several major European posts”.

Rocco adds “Francis named Bishop Josef De Kesel of Bruges, 68, as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and head of a Belgian church that might just be the most bitterly polarised in the Catholic world. In the capital post of the linguistically-split, heavily secularised nation of Dutch and French-speakers, the incoming primate succeeds Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, who only reached the retirement age of 75 in May, after a five-year tenure which has been dogged by controversy from the outset on fronts ranging from the prelate’s comments on the moral culpability of AIDS patients to clergy sex-abuse, which saw Leonard civilly ordered to pay €10,000 earlier this year after being found to have failed to act on an allegation in his prior post in the 1990s. Highlighting the tensions on the wider scene, in two incidents that went viral the archbishop once was hit in the face with a pie during a liturgy and subsequently had water bottles dumped on him by topless feminists who stormed the stage at one of his speaking engagements”.

Rocco adds vitally that “A protege of Leonard’s predecessor, the famously liberal Cardinal Godfried Danneels – whose auxiliary De Kesel had been from 2002-10 – the archbishop-elect (a Gregorian-trained theologian) was the first choice on the terna for the last Brussels succession, but the then-Nuncio, Archbishop Karl-Josef Rauber, was overruled by Benedict XVI, who personally chose the more traditional Leonard. Shortly after the appointment and his retirement shortly thereafter, a clearly displeased Rauber himself disclosed the face-off in an Italian magazine interview, going on to criticize both Papa Ratzinger and his eventual pick. Now 81, as a coda it bears noting that the former Nuncio was given a non-voting red hat by Francis at last February’s Consistory”.

The report goes on to note “In today’s other major move, Francis has reportedly spurred shock in the Spanish church’s Establishment by tapping 69 year-old Bishop Jose Omella of Calahorra as archbishop of Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest diocese, ground zero in the ongoing fight over independence for Catalonia, the region based in Gaudí’s city, where the 2010 dedication of the architect’s Basilica of the Sagrada Familia provided one of the monumental moments of the last pontificate. Named to succeed the native son Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, now 78, according to local reports Omella was raised on the peripheries of the region and grew up speaking its distinctive Catalan tongue, but isn’t said to be given to his new fold’s widespread nationalist tendencies. In keeping with Francis’ usual identikit for his picks, the Barcelona nominee has a long history in the church’s social action work, including a stint as a missionary in Zaire. The Pope’s move on the 2 million-member archdiocese is Papa Bergoglio’s third major shift in Spain – whose hierarchy he knows well, having preached one of its retreats before his election – following last year’s bombshell appointments on the same day to Madrid and Valencia, the latter going to Rome’s then-Liturgy Czar, Cardinal Antonio Canizares”.

Rocco reminds the reader that the appointments “close out a cycle of top-level nods which began last week as – in his first turn at Italy’s traditional “cardinalatial sees” – Francis yet again stunned the natives by naming an auxiliary of Rome, Bishop Matteo Zuppi, 59, as archbishop of Bologna and a 53 year-old Sicilian parish priest, Msgr Corrado Lorefice, to the archbishopric of Palermo, the island’s premier post. As with today’s appointees, both have significant records of pastoring the church on the margins, with Zuppi – a lead figure in the progressive Sant’Egidio movement – having led one of Rome’s largest outskirt parishes, while Lorefice has frequently cited his inspiration in the figure of Fr Pino Puglisi, a searing critic of Sicily’s Mafia bosses who was gunned down outside his church in 1993. Beatified in 2013, “Don Pino” is buried in the cathedral where Lorefice will soon have his seat. When the assassinated cleric’s name was raised following his appointment, the archbishop-elect interjected to reporters that his selection was Puglisi’s “fault.”

Interestingly Rocco adds that “In both appointments, meanwhile, it is understood that the Pope tossed aside the shortlists compiled during the formal consultation process, choosing instead to find his choices after taking his own soundings among the clergy of each place”.

Pointedly he concludes “Given his determination to not be “chained” to the custom of certain dioceses nearly guaranteed a spot in his Senate, as Francis has chosen to send his Italian red hats to places which have never had a cardinal or not seen one in generations, whether the duo will follow their respective predecessors into the College is an open question. In any case, while a February Consistory is again said to be on-deck, the mid-month timeframe when Francis has gathered the cardinals both in 2014 and 2015 is off the table next year due to the Pope’s now-confirmed trip to Mexico, during which the first American pontiff is widely expected to make his long-desired stop somewhere along the US border… and possibly cross over it”.


2015 Curial assignments


The Press Office of the Holy See has released the curial assignments for the newly appointed cardinals.

What is most interesting is that bodies like the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Migrants and Itinerants and Justice and Peace all received new members. These bodies are under review and are thought to be abolished. Cardinal Sarah was moved to CDW and no replacement named. Interestingly, bodies like the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and the Pontifical Council for the Family got no new members appointed. This may indicated that Pope Francis is seriously considering abolishing these discastaries as well. The fact that the newest Pontifical Council, got one new member means that Francis probably has a role for the body in the revised Roman Curia.

“Reforming the Vatican Curia is moving too slowly”


Thomas Reese writes that the reforms of Pope Francis are not moving fast enough. He begins, “As Pope Francis approaches the second anniversary of his election as pope, progress on reforming the Vatican Curia is moving too slowly. It should be moving faster. The College of Cardinals met in consistory on Feb. 12-13 to review the progress made so far and to discuss future reforms. The cardinals heard from the nine-member Council of Cardinals, which has been spearheading the reforms for Pope Francis”.

Reese goes on to write “The greatest progress has been made in reforming the finances of the Vatican, which has mainly focused on where the money is — the Vatican bank, the Vatican City State, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, and the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples. A new Secretariat for the Economy was also created to supervise Vatican finances. Reforming Vatican finances is a priority for Pope Francis, who listened to the complaints about financial scandals from the cardinals at the time of his election”.

He makes the point that “In theory, this is the easiest part of Vatican reform. Financial reform is neither rocket science nor theology; it is simply good management practices developed by businesses, governments, and nonprofits to provide transparency and accountability. It requires clear procedures, training of employees, and proper supervision. Applying all of this to the Vatican is a challenge, but everyone knows what is required. There may be resistance, but strong, steady leadership can prevail. This does not mean that scandals will end. In the short run, there should be more scandals as the bad actors are caught by the new system”.

Reese continues. “Reforming the Roman Curia requires a theological vision for the Petrine ministry, a sense of what the church needs today, and a practical understanding of how to organize people to implement it. First, what is the theological vision of the Petrine ministry? Is the pope an infallible, absolute monarch in whom all wisdom resides, or is he first among equals who acts collegially with the college of bishops? If it is the former, then all important decisions will be referred to the pope or to those to whom he has delegated decision-making power in the Curia. Any issue that is in doubt must go up the chain of command. If it is the latter vision, then the church needs a system for encouraging discussion and consensus building in the college of bishops. Here, the Curia is in service to the pope and the college of bishops; curial officials are not decision-makers”.

He goes on to mention that “Reform of the Roman Curia is difficult because there is no consensus on the Petrine ministry, the needs of the church today, or the practical issues of management. Perhaps the first place to start is by asking Vatican officials and local bishops what issues are being decided in Rome that should be decided at the local, national, or regional level. For example, if a priest and his bishop agree that the priest should be laicized, why does his case have to go to Rome? Do liturgical translations have to be micromanaged in Rome?”

This ends the myth that Rome is all powerful. It may, in theory be, but in reality there are probably bigger issues in Diocese X or Vicariate Y that demand more attention.

Reese adds “This was one of the issues raised by the cardinals as they met in consistory on Feb. 12, according to Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi. He reports that they discussed the notion of subsidiarity, or how the Roman Curia might share and divide responsibilities between local dioceses and bishops’ conferences. But no details were given. If this ever gets beyond the discussion stage, it will have a profound impact on the Vatican congregations, which have much of the decision-making authority in the Vatican. But instead of discussing the congregations, the focus of attention during the February consistory was shifted to the councils, which have little decision-making authority”.

Correctly Reese writes that “most of the pontifical councils act like think tanks rather than bureaucracies. They have little decision-making authority. The Council for the Laity has the canonical authority to approve the statutes of international Catholic lay organizations, and that is about it. For the most part, councils only have the power to exhort and persuade, not to order. So what do these councils do? For the most part, they talk, write, and publish on the topics of their competencies. They receive visitors interested in these topics, and they attend international meetings on the topics”.

Reese restates the long held rumour that “There is a proposal to merge some of these councils into two congregations, one dealing with laity and one dealing with justice, peace and the environment. It is hoped that this will reduce staff and make the offices more efficient. The first congregation will be created by merging the current councils for laity and family. The second congregation will be created from merging the old councils for justice and peace, health care, migrants and refugees, and include a new office for safeguarding creation”.

Interestingly Reese goes on to make the point that “The most likely result of these mergers is that less will be done. Fewer documents will be written, fewer conferences will be attended, fewer initiatives will be taken because there will be fewer employees, and their initiatives will have to go through another layer of review before seeing the light of day. In my opinion, the best result of these mergers is that there will be three fewer positions that must be filled by archbishops and might be filled by cardinals in the Curia. Anything that reduces the number of archbishops and cardinals in the Curia is good. On the other hand, there will be two more positions that must be held by cardinals. That is bad”.

He harshly writes “That it took the Council of Cardinals two years to come up with this reshuffling of boxes on the organizational chart simply shows they really don’t know what they are doing. It should have taken two months to develop this plan, not two years. At this pace, Pope Francis will be dead before real reform hits the Curia”.

Same enemies as Benedict?


An article questions if the same people that were against Pope Benedict are against Pope Francis.

He begins “One can govern without worrying what his enemies are doing. And one can govern by trying to use his enemies, or at least by putting them in a situation where they can’t do any damage. Pope Francis’ strategy seems to be the latter. This is the dominant picture that emerges from the series of appointments and choices he has made during the almost two-year period of his pontificate. While it seems that those who opposed Benedict XVI have risen again, it also seems that Pope Francis is seeking to neutralize his enemies by assigning them new posts. The latest appointments which give the impression that this is Pope Francis’ approach are the seven members of the new ‘College’ established to deal with ‘delicta graviora’ that Pope Francis has created within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. ‘Delicta graviora’ concern ‘most serious crimes’, and include sexual abuse of minors and certain serious abuses associated with the Sacrament of Penance”.

The article adds “The monthly meeting of the 25 cardinals and bishops who are members of the Congregation – the so called ‘feria quarta’ – examine an average of 4-5 appeals of priests who believe themselves to have been unjustly condemned. The newly established office is charged with lightening the workload of the Congregation. All of its members are well versed in canon law. However, most of them fell from the limelight as a consequence of Benedict XVI’s curial reforms. Some of them slammed the door behind them. Others made a more subtle retreat. The president of the new College is Charles J. Scicluna, currently Auxiliary Bishop of Malta, who previously served for ten years as Promoter of Justice (i.e. public prosecutor) within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Scicluna was one of the main players during the height of the clerical sexual abuse scandal, and he promoted and enforced the Vatican’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy. Now back in the service of the Congregation, he draws again from his earlier experience. But it is rumored his appointment as auxiliary bishop was also due to some backbiting”.

He goes through the other members, “Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, has turned 75, the age of retirement. A recent rescript made even more stringent the requirement for people who reach the age limit to leave their posts. Coccopalmerio has become one of the most active supporters of Pope Francis’ line, and he also authored a debatet proposal for curial reform, with no results. His appointment in the College will give him an excuse to remain in Rome. Some people are even talking about the possible abolition of the Pontifical Council he currently heads: it was needed to respond to juridical questions that arose after the Second Vatican Council, but in Pope Francis’ era it is said it is no longer considered necessary. Another member of the College is Bishop Juan Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru, number two at Legislative Texts. At the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate, he seemed to be a rising star, and sources maintain that he was entrusted with drafting the Chirograph through which the Pope established the Pontifical Commission for Reference concerning the IOR (the so-called Vatican Bank), where he has served as secretary. Arrieta seemed to be up for an important post in the Curia, and perhaps he will make the cut. At the moment, however, it is unlikely that that he will do so. Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski is currently Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. He turned 75 and is going to retire. He did not invite the sympathy of “Francis’ world” when he strongly opposed Kasper’s line at the recent synod of bishops. According to rumours, he will be soon be replaced by Victor Fernandez, Rector of the Catholic University of Argentina and Pope Francis’ ghostwriter”.

He ends the section “Cardinal Julian Herranz, appointed supplementary member, is a skilled juridical and canon law expert and former president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. But he is also the cardinal who led the commission of cardinals to investigate Vatileaks, and this might have a certain weight to Pope Francis’ eyes. Finally, Archbishop José Mollaghan is also a member of the College. He was Archbishop of Rosario, Argentina, but Pope Francis did not want him there. He was appointed a member of the College even before the rescript that outlines its functions was published. He moved to Buenos Aires, having obtained from the Pope permission to remain in Argentina, but no longer in Rosario”.

He makes the point that “The way the College was established provides an example of Pope Francis’ modus operandi. The College almost seems to be a remedial refuge for marginalised prelates Pope Francis wants to keep close at hand. The modus operandi may be described this way: first you create a refuge, then you invent some project for it to do. So Pope Francis’ pontificate may be described as the ‘remedial pontificate’. In the next consistory, Karl Josef Rauber, former Nuncio to Belgium, will be created cardinal. He strongly opposed the appointment of André Joseph Léonard as archbishop of Brussels, and while doing so even resorted to granting an interview that read like anti-Benedict XVI propaganda. It is rumoured that he was one of those who leaked to the media a series of innuendos concerning Benedict’s pontificate”.

The result of this is he writes “with Francis as pope, a gang of diplomats is once again front and center on stage. Under Benedict XVI, diplomats felt marginalised. Benedict read every dossier they sent to him and returned them with questions and modifications written in his tiny handwriting. But the Pope Emeritus preferred personal meetings with residential bishops during their ad limina visits”.

He underlines this point, “Pope Francis has entrusted many diplomats with key positions. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, comes from the old school of diplomacy. Recently he initiated a personal campaign to subject to official procedures every decision that had not yet been so treated: last week, a rescript was published that formalised the previously announced, de facto enlargement of the number of members of the Council for Superintendency of the IOR. Cardinal Beniamino Stella is the head of the Congregation for the Clergy: he is a diplomat, who previously served as Papal Nuncio to Cuba and later as President of the Ecclesiastical Academy, the school for Vatican diplomats. Edoardo Menichelli, archbishop of Ancona, will be created cardinal: he was raised by another guru of Vatican diplomacy, Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, of whom  he had been number two at the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, during the ’90s”.

The writer goes on to mention “This is the split that Jorge Mario Bergoglio observed during the General Congregations – the pre-conclave meetings of cardinals. He got his first whiff of it when, during one of his speeches – according to a source – he spoke of the significance of the older members of the Curia and of the diplomats. Later, once elected pope, he indicated that he grasped what he had earlier only sensed when he explained that he did not come into the papacy with a ready-made plan for the Church, but was merely implementing what the cardinals had said needed to be done during the General Congregations. But Pope Francis also listens to Benedict XVI and has made him a sort of hidden adviser. During their first meeting at Castel Gandolfo, Benedict gave Francis a box containing the Vatileaks documents. He carefully explained the situation in the Vatican in such detail that Pope Francis was struck hard. If Pope Benedict decided to proceed with his reform project without caring too much about what others thought, Pope Francis has determined for the most part to give a certain weight to each individual’s opinion in an attempt to avoid internal power struggles. Nevertheless, he doesn’t hesitate to lash out at the Curia – as when he listed the 15 curial diseases during their Christmas exchange of greetings – while at the same time he is careful to hold them all close to himself without letting any of them know what his true intentions are”.

Crucially he writes “But this, too, is a defensive mechanism because the enemies of Benedict are the same enemies of Francis. Some of these still wish that the Church would think along the lines of secular criteria, while others are just looking for positions of power for themselves so they can exercise power. There are but a few who search for the Truth. It remains to be seen whether Francis will be able to govern while surrounded by enemies, or whether the latter will out-connive him and win him over to their side. For now all of his decisions show a certain inclination in favor of his enemies. But Francis’ primary objective – above all others – is to refashion a positive image of the Church. He wants to adjust its structures to fit the expectations of ordinary people in order to renew the Church’s credibility. He attempts this through gestures aimed at swaying the popular imagination, while at the same time he holds in-check everyone in the Curia who could possibly damage this new, positive image. Francis’ plan seems to be  short-term in scope; he hopes to repair offenses in order to avoid being attacked. When all the offenses are repaired, what will the state of Church  be? Will it still be able to shape the world?”

Tonga’s first cardinal


John Allen writes in Crux about Tonga’s first cardinal. At the same time Cardinal Mafi becomes the youngest member in the College of Cardinals.

Allen begins “Picking new cardinals is one way for popes to make statements, and this time Francis clearly seems to be saying something about the global realities of Catholicism. On Saturday he’ll induct 20 cardinals who literally come from all over the map — Myanmar, for instance, and Cape Verde, and Vietnam. Even on that roster, however, pride of place for most improbable setting for a new Prince of the Church has to go to the Pacific nation of Tonga, composed of 176 islands and just 100,000 people, only 15,000 of them Catholic”.

Allen mentions that “To get a sense of how far off the beaten path it lies, consider that Soane Patita Paini Mafi, the country’s fourth-ever Catholic bishop and now its first cardinal, had to travel almost 11,000 miles via four airplane connections to arrive in Rome for his big day”.

Pointedly Allen underlines his age, “Set at age 53 to become the world’s youngest cardinal, Mafi seems a Pope Francis sort of cleric: unpretentious, non-political, and refreshingly ordinary. He’s the kind of guy, for instance, who freely admits his one regret at being named to high Church honors is that it might mean less time to clean out his family’s small pig sty back home. Yet Mafi also knows why the recognition matters. ‘This means the world to us,’ Mafi said of the way Tongans reacted to the pope’s Jan. 5 announcement. When he gets back, he said, the country plans to let the good times roll Tonga-style”.

Allen goes on to mention that “He said he learned he’d been named a cardinal from his brother Peter, who lives in San Francisco where he works as a choirmaster at a Catholic parish. The brother called at 4 a.m. Tonga time, Mafi said, getting him out of bed with the news. Because Mafi had no previous indication the move was in the works, he broke out his laptop and went on the Vatican website to make sure it was for real. ‘Even to become a bishop was hard for me to believe, but I never thought I’d be a cardinal, never,’ Mafi said. He said tens of thousands of Tongans from all walks of life have sent notes of congratulations and best wishes, including the country’s king, Tupou VI, and his wife Queen Nanasipauʻu, who’s planning to be at Saturday’s consistory ceremony”.

Allen goes on to note that “Mafi said he knows he’s not being chosen based on any personal rapport with the pope. In truth, he said, he’s met Francis only once in his life, for a fleeting moment during last fall’s Synod of Bishops, and then only to explain to the pontiff where Tonga is located. ‘That’s far, far away!’ was the only thing the pope said, Mafi recalled. Despite coming from a small place, Mafi is no naïf. He’s actually taken part in two Vatican Synods of Bishops: a 2012 summit on the New Evangelization and last year’s session on issues related to the family. He’ll likely take part again when the Synod of Bishops meets in October”.

Interestingly Allen notes that “On the vexing issue of whether divorced and remarried Catholics ought to be able to receive Communion, Mafi said he doesn’t come into the debate with a fixed position. ‘As pastors, we meet people who ask, ‘When will the Church relax this? We need to receive Communion.’ We see that often,’ he said. ‘I believe in the need for discerning, for the Church to listen and to be open,’ he said. “It’s not for one person to decide. It’s not an individual opinion. I believe in that, [and] I remain open.’ Mafi, who studied at Loyola University in Maryland during the late 1990s, acknowledged that at age 53, he’s likely to be a cardinal for at least a quarter-century. Potentially, he could play a part in the election of two or three popes”.

Yet in reality Cardinal Mafi is being diplomatic. It would be hard for any other interpretation than Cardinal Mafi being in favour of a change of the “rules” around Communion.

Allen ends “In any event, he said, becoming a cardinal hasn’t yet been quite as traumatic as being named a bishop back in 2007, when he was sworn to strict secrecy for a month, having to withhold the news even from his mother. During that time, he said, his mom could sense something was weighing on him, but didn’t pry. Finally the day came for the announcement, Mafi said, and he went by his mother’s house to break the news. He was dressed in his formal priestly attire in order to make the customary courtesy call on the king later in the day. Mafi said he was so overcome with emotion he couldn’t speak, so he just stood there crying. His mom assumed the worst”.

“Because of his advanced age”


“It was confirmed today that Cardinal-designate José de Jesús Pimiento Rodríguez, archbishop emeritus of Manizales, Colombia, will not go to Rome to participate in the the Ordinary Public Consistory of February 14 because of his advanced age. He will receive the red biretta and the cardinalitial ring in his country in the coming days”.

“The Pope’s favourite peripheries”


An article notes that Pope Francis has chosen the new cardinals from the peripheries. He opens “Since becoming pope, Francis has asked the Church repeatedly to reach outward toward the peripheries, and he immediately began to show his preference for them. His first papal trip was to the Italian island of Lampedusa, a periphery of the Mediterranean and an asylum for refugees. His first European trip outside Italy was to Albania, a country that is still not a member of the European Union. And the big reform of the Church seems to be oriented to giving more weight and power to the peripheries of the Church. But which are the peripheries that Pope Francis prefers? To which peripheries does the Pope want to give the keys of the Church? This question occurs as Pope Francis is leaving on his trip to Asia (another periphery), because his plan for the Church may be better understood by understanding which are his preferred peripheries”.

He goes on to make the point “Pope Francis’ choices of new Cardinals for the next Consistory have surprised many. In general, he respected some non-written rules for the creation of new Cardinals; yet he interpreted these rules his own way, mixing up the cards as he usually does. In the end, his picks not only tilted the balance of influence in the College toward the Church’s peripheries, more importantly, they showed that some peripheries are more significant than others”.

He adds “Among the new picks, there are only two African bishops who will be able to vote in a conclave, from Ethiopia and Cape Verde. No new Cardinals hail from North America. Just four come from Europe. In general, all the new Cardinals come from peripheral countries. They are characterized by a strong pastoral commitment, especially on social issues. And most of them do not get along well with the Church’s central governing institution, or at least they do not know it very well. Some of them are anti-Roman, or at least they see Rome as an impediment for their pastoral activity. An exception is number two on the papal list, Manuel Macario do Nascimento Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon. He is not a progressive, but a scholar, a pretty conservative one. Nevertheless, Patriarch Clemente was able to set the bar for his church in tune with Pope Francis, for example, by organizing a missionary synod for 2016 and by positioning himself in the mainstream during the last synod of bishops. Even if deemed a traditionalist, he knows which way the wind is blowing. An 18th-century agreement between Pope Clement XI and King John V of Portugal requires that the Patriarch of Lisbon be created Cardinal at the first consistory that occurs after his appointment. Patriarch Clemente had to wait an additional consistory before making the cut. This may not have been just by chance”.

He goes on to make the point that “Among the most anti-Roman peripheries is New Zealand. At a first sight, the choice of Archbishop John Atcherley Dew seemed to be a tribute to Cardinal George Pell, in an effort to give the College of Cardinals a new residential representative from Oceania, since Pell’s successor in Sydney was not going to receive a red hat. This interpretation was tempting, but it proved wrong. New Zealand is one of the most secularized countries in the world, and the Catholic Church there has drifted toward desacralisation. New Zealand is the ‘Holland of Oceania’. The last liturgical reform there dropped the requirement that the faithful should kneel during the consecration”.

Interestingly he notes “No wonder that the Archbishop of Wellington joined Cardinal Walter Kasper’s side at the synod of bishops. In the end he even admitted that New Zealand had already adopted the direction proposed by Kasper. Dew did not state this out of opportunism; he insisted out of personal conviction that Kasper’s proposals were right”.

He continues “On the other side of the ocean, beyond the surprise of a Cardinal hailing from Paranà, Pope Francis will create the Archbishop of Montevideo (Uruguay), Daniel Fernando Sturla, a Cardinal. He comes from the most atheistic country in South America, and he probably thinks that the antidote to the hemorrhage of the faithful is for the Church to move closer toward their positions: some of his declaration have been read as a real change of pace, especially for what concern doctrinal stances. What a pity, then, that a Pew Forum survey suggests instead that this approach may not be helpful. In a survey on reasons why Catholics leave to join Protestant sects, the Pew Forum established as the first three reasons the search for a personal connection with God, participation in a particular style of worship and, finally, a felt need for a greater emphasis on morality”.

Pointedly the writer makes the point that “While Leonardo Boff continues to celebrate para-religious rites although he quit the priesthood and lives with female partner, his brother, Clodovis, has come around to understand that putting the poor, and not Christ, at the center of the Church’s preaching has turned the Church in Brazil into a sort of merciful NGO. This is exactly what Pope Francis says he does not want. Yet the Pope seemingly prefers bishops with this kind of orientation, bishops who perhaps possess a very strong pastoral sensitivity, but one that is little supported by Catholic teachings. Pope Francis’ choices concretise the bias found in some ecclesial peripheries that view Rome as an obstacle and an impedment to their development”.

He goes on to make the valid point that “it seems that the Pope’s favourite peripheries are those that perceive any central institution with suspicion and that seek a pastoral autonomy unbound from the doctrine of the Church. Step by step, the final outcome may involve the dismantling of the Roman Curia’s structures, and even the dismantling of the weight of some bishops’ posts. The Pope does not respect traditional balances, he simply de-legitimizes and undermines existing church institutions this way. Pope Francis’ plan does not seem to be long term. Reasoning in the short term he sees the need for Cardinals from peripheries who are able to carry forward his reforms and even quietly drive the Synod of Bishops toward his wished-for change in direction. The secret battle for the next Synod has already begun, as has the battle for advancing curial reforms“.

Worryingly for the Church he writes that “if the Pope does not have a long term plan in mind, is there anyone out there who does? According the Austen Ivereigh’s book “The Great Reformer,” the team of Cardinals who backed Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s election convinced skeptical Cardinals to support him by arguing that Benedict XVI’s resignation established the principle that from now on a pope could leave office at the right time. These Cardinals certainly had in mind a plan for the Church. All of the Cardinals in the alleged ‘team Bergoglio’ are promoters of a progressivist agenda, one that favors a less doctrinal and more pastoral Church, an agenda of mercy that could not care less about justice. All of these Cardinals knew that Bergoglio, filled with the Latin American periphery’s anti-Roman sentiment, would back the reforms they hoped to see enacted. Nevertheless, they probably already have someone in mind for the next conclave. A very strong pretender to the throne may be Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Filipino, young, esteemed in progressivist circles for his contribution to the “History of the Second Vatican Council”, an account of the Council drafted by the group of scholars belonging to the so-called ‘Bologna School’ who interpret it as a rupture, and not as a continuity, in the Church’s tradition”.

The author goes on to note the other theory “The other future contender for the papacy is Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State. He worked hard demonstrating the full weight of the Secretariat of State, which was originally supposed to be dismantled or at least divided into two large secretariats. With diplomatic finesse, Cardinal Parolin has earned a prominent position, and he is now moving the Vatican’s diplomatic apparatus toward a limited global interventionism (he recently stressed that “there are so many conflicts that we cannot stay silent”), while still maintaining a certain realpolitik. If he wins the battle over curial reform, he may have a chance”.

However, it has been said before that “after a fat pope, a lean pope”. Therefore as Francis was from a diocese and is progressive, the successor may come from the Curia and have a more orthodox streak. However this seems slightly less likely the way Francis continues to choose his cardinals. Yet, any suggestion that Cardinal Tagle is the crown prince should not be taken seriously.

He ends “For his part, Pope Francis does not seem to be a part of this war; he is mostly a pawn in it. But his unpredictability together with his impulsivity and improvisation constitute real contributions to the war effort. In the end, everybody knew which were the peripheries the Pope loved the most. And everybody knew about his resentment toward Rome and central church structures. Many of his latest choices prove it”.

Francis writes to the cardinals


The cardinalate is indeed a vocation, precisely ordered to the exercise of this dimension of service. The Lord, through the Church, calls you yet again to serve; and it will do you good to repeat in prayer the expression that Jesus himself suggested to his disciples in order to maintain humility: “Say, ‘We are unworthy servants’”, and this not as a formula of good upbringing but as truth after work, “when you have done all that is commanded you” (Lk 17:10). Keeping oneself humble in service is not easy when one sees the cardinalate as an award, like the culmination of a career, a dignity of power or of superior distinction”.

140 electors?


Pope Francis is considering the feasibility of expanding the number of cardinal electors who will chose the next pontiff to 140 from the current 120. The proposal is contained in a document recently presented to Francis by Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera. The issue is to be discussed in the consistory, or meeting of college of cardinals, next month”.

Consistory 2015:the names


Yesterday, Pope Francis announced the names of the 20 new cardinals that will be created next month, 15 of these will be electors and the remaining five are over 80 and thus cannot vote in a conclave. Interestingly, Francis seemed to justify is unusual choices. A press release notes that only Archbishop Mamberti comes from the Curia but it adds “ the Pope is not bound to the traditions of the “Cardinalatial Sees” – which were motivated by historical reasons in different countries – in which the Cardinalate was considered almost “automatically” connected to such sees. Instead, we have several nominations of Archbishops and Bishops of sees that in the past have not had a Cardinal”.

The names of the cardinals-designate are:

The five non electors are:

It is striking that a host of dioceses have not been named such as Sergio da Rocha of Brasília, Jose Palma of Cebu, Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Oscar Vian Morales of Guatemala City. Equally suprising is the fact that Francis overlooked his own appointment of Carlos Osero Sierra of Madrid and instead chose to appoint the archbishop of. Equally puzzelling is the fact that Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala was not named for a pope of the peripheries.

It is however thankful that Francis has not totally ignored important dioceses like Wellington and Bangkok. Equally important is the inclusion of the head of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, an Eastern Rite Catholic Church in communion with Rome.

Rocco makes the point that America again been excluded, “Francis’ second biglietto (ticket) into his Senate represents a shock to the system – again, no Americans (a second consecutive shut-out unseen in almost four decades)”. He goes on to make the point that “the ongoing shake-up of the College reiterates Francis’ desire to bring the church’s “peripheries” to its center in the forum which will determine the church’s direction after his pontificate ends – and, of course, the talent pool from which a new Pope has invariably been drawn for the last eight centuries”.

Rocco adds importantly that “Along these lines, beyond the red hat’s first-time country destinations, three of the global church’s most powerful hierarchies were rocked by the choices from their ranks as Papa Bergoglio again bypassed Italy’s traditional cardinalatial sees with his two residential picks in the country (the archbishops of Ancona and Agrigento), doing the same for Spain with the elevation of the archbishop of Valladolid (the president of its episcopal conference) and in Mexico by sending the red to Morelia in Michoacan – an area marked by drug violence far from the historic scarlet seats of Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. On another front, as he did in his first slate last year with Haiti’s first-ever cardinal, Chibly Langlois of Les Cayes, Francis likewise elevated three diocesan bishops not of metropolitan rank”.

Yet at the same time as consistently ignoring places like Venice and Turin, Francis still gives the red to more Italians who are still by far the largest voting bloc in the College of Cardinals. Either Francis should give the red to places that have had it before in Italy or should not give it at all. It would be far better that the situation were the Italian bloc remains more or less steady or with perhaps a slight decline but the decline is so minor that it is almost not worth mentioning.

Rocco continues, “Keeping the practice begun last time, the designates were again not given advance notice of their elevation – a choice that, given the routing of the heads-up through the Nunciatures, ensures no leaks of the list. Beyond the new intake, as even existing cardinals were left guessing over the shape of the incoming class over recent days”.

John Allen notes that “With his picks for new cardinals announced on Sunday, Pope Francis continued his campaign to reach out to the peripheries. The pontiff bypassed traditional centers of power and awarded red hats to such typically overlooked locales as Panama, Thailand, Cape Verde, New Zealand, and the Pacific island of Tonga. For the second time, there were no new cardinals from the United States on the list announced by Francis. There were also no Americans in the first crop of cardinals named by Francis in February 2014. While geography seemed the determining factor in these picks for Pope Francis, who at times struggled even pronouncing the names of his new cardinals, it’s noteworthy that the list includes a couple of high-profile moderates but no one with a clear reputation as a doctrinal or political conservative”.

Allen goes on to make the point that “Archbishop John Atcherley Dew from New Zealand, for instance, argued for allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion at a 2005 Vatican synod of bishops. Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez is president of the Spanish bishops’ conference and generally seen as a moderate opposed to the harder line of former Madrid Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela”.

Another annoyance is the continuing practice of Francis to appoint people at, or over, the retirement age of 75. Francis did this in his first consistory when he named Archbishop Orlando Beltran Quevedo of Cotabato a cardinal at the age of 75.  Francis continued this trend this year with Archbishops Edoardo Menichelli of Ancona-Osimo, Pierre Nguyên Văn Nhon of Hà Nôi and Alberto Suárez Inda of Morelia, all over 75. It would surely be better to wait for the successors to be appointed and then create their successors as cardinals. Pope Francis should wait to appoint those who he wants to important sees like Turin.

Cardinal Chaput, Gomez or Cupich?


John Allen writes about the recently announced consistory that will take place in February.

He opens the piece “The Catholic Church’s most exclusive club will have new members come February, as the Vatican announced Thursday Pope Francis will hold a consistory to create new cardinals Feb. 14-15. Almost nothing a pope does is as critical to the direction of Catholicism, in part because cardinals are the most influential leaders in the Church after the pontiff himself. In part, too, a pope shapes the future by selecting cardinals, because they will eventually elect his successor. Although dates for the consistory have been announced, we don’t yet know the names”.

This echoes the trend that Francis began last year. At the same time the fact that the consistory takes place over two days suggests a reversal of the reforms introduced by Pope Benedict who shortened the ceremony to take place over one day.  The events of the 15th however could simply be a collective Mass with the new cardinals but it is obviously too soon to tell.

Allen says this consistory will be smaller than 2014. Francis should have 10 electoral slots to fill which would bring the College of Cardinals back to its 120 limit. However there is a strong possibility that Francis could go over this with only four other cardinals losing their voting rights next year. Thus Francis could easily have a consistory that would make the electors 124 and simply wait until Cardinal Naguib, Cardinal Rigali, Cardinal de Paolis and Cardinal Abril y Castello all age out by September. Of course Cardinal Lajolo will have already turned 80 in January by the time the consistory will take place.

Naturally Francis will have a small group of those over 80, so the class of new cardinals for 2015 could be 16 or 17 with 14 of these being electors.

Allen adds that “A pope isn’t obliged, however, to follow the rules. In 2001, John Paul II blew past the 120 limit by raising the total of voting-age cardinals to 135 in one of the largest consistories ever, with a total of 38 new under-80 cardinals, plus two more announced to the world who had previously been named in pectore, meaning secretly. Last February, the take-away from Francis’ first round of new cardinals is that it was the ‘Consistory of the Peripheries.’ The global south had nine cardinals out of the 16, while only three red hats went to members of the Roman Curia, meaning the Vatican’s administrative bureaucracy. The pope also made a point of giving cardinals to places that never had them before, such as Haiti, and even within countries he tended to select smaller and often overlooked dioceses, such as Cotabato in the Philippines and Perugia in Italy”.

By way of context Allen makes the point that Europe has 54 cardianls, Latin America has 16, North America has 15, Africa has 12, Asia has 11, Mid East with 2, Caribbean 1, and Oceania has 1.

Allen continues that “almost two-thirds of the voting cardinals (69) still come from the global north, while two-thirds of the world’s Catholic population today lives in the global south. Benedict XVI began to address this imbalance in his last consistory in November 2012, in which he named seven new cardinals without a single European. Francis continued to move towards realignment in his first consistory, and will presumably do so again next February. In terms of candidates from the United States, there are three prelates from archdioceses traditionally led by a cardinal who are currently in line. In order of how long they’ve been waiting, they are: Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who took over in March 2011; Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who was appointed three months later in July 2011; and Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, tapped by Francis in September 2014 and installed in November”.

He mentions that “In Los Angeles, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony is 78; in Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali is 79; and in Chicago, Cardinal Francis George is 77. However, Francis has already demonstrated a willingness to break with protocol. So the question would still be asked of why he chose not to in this case. Moreover, Rigali turns 80 in February and George is in ill health, so there would be a clear logic for setting tradition aside in at least those two cases. No matter what Francis does, many Americans will be tempted to read it as a statement. If a red hat goes to Gomez, it will be seen as history’s first pope from Latin America creating the first Hispanic cardinal in the United States, thereby giving a shout-out to the country’s burgeoning Latino Catholic population. If it’s Chaput, it will be styled as a sign of confidence ahead of the pope’s trip to Philadelphia next September for a Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families”.

He ends the piece, “If it’s Cupich, the perception may be that Francis is moving quickly to ensure that his hand-picked allies occupy the Church’s most senior posts. Critics may resurrect charges familiar from the John Paul era, albeit in a different ideological direction, that the pope is ‘stacking the deck’ in the College of Cardinals. If the pope bypasses the United States, it may be seen as a snub ahead of his American trip, since this will almost certainly be the only consistory between now and then. On the other hand, it could also be spun as an education for Americans in the realities of living in a global Church”.

Consistory in February


Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., announced the Holy Father’s wish to convene a Consistory for the creation of new cardinals on 14 and 15 February 2015. He also announced two other important appointments: a meeting of the Council of Cardinals for the reform of the Roman Curia (9 to 11 February) and a meeting of the College of Cardinals (12 to 13 February) to discuss matters relating to the reorganisation of the Holy See”.