Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, C.S., as the of the Pontifical Delegate to the Legion of Christ. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told journalists Friday that "as soon as possible" he will personally meet with the Legion's superiors to discuss the scope of his role.
The archbishop's appointment, announced precisely at noon on Friday, confirms well-informed Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli's prediction from June 21 that the delegate would be the president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. Archbishop De Paolis is also an expert in canon law.
On May 1 the Pope's intention to name a delegate to the Legion and a "commission to study the Legion's constitutions" was made known in a communique from the Holy See's Press Office following meetings between the five apostolic visitors to the Legion.
Fr. Lombardi told journalists today that it will likely be Archbishop De Paolis to "guide the commission and its 'birth'." As for other specifics of what the archbishop's exact role will be, no information was released.
However, the Vatican spokesman explained that "the first thing" the Pontifical delegate would do is go to meet with the superiors of the Legion to communicate the "terms and significance of his mandate" to them and, thus, the entire congregation.
"We have not published a decree or a mandate from the Pope," said Fr. Lombardi. "Why? Because this was received by him (Archbishop De Paolis) and he will communicate it to those involved ... "
He added that the archbishop will establish how, when and in what form the Holy Father's mandate will be communicated as well as details regarding the formation of the commission to examine the Legion's constitutions.
Fr. Lombardi pointed to the May 1 statement to underscored that the spirit of the Holy Father's actions is one of "accompaniment and of assistance by the Church in the challenging path of purification and renewal that awaits the congregation."
A Friday statement from the Legion recognized Archbishop De Paolis' "broad experience and proven competence in his own religious congregation, in university teaching, and in service to the Holy See." The order welcomed his appointment "with gratitude" and confirmed their desire “to respond fully to his guidance."
They also expressed their "deep gratitude to the Holy Father for his fatherly solicitude, and put themselves completely at the disposal of Archbishop de Paolis."
Underscoring the congregation's support for the delegate, the caption of a photo accompanying the statement on the Legion's website reads, “Since the pontifical delegate represents the Pope and acts in his name, he becomes the supreme authority for the religious congregation.”
Aside from his position as head of the prefecture for Vatican economic affairs, Archbishop De Paolis is a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and consultor for three dicasteries of the Holy See. He is known in the Vatican to be an expert in canon law particularly as it applies to religious life.
Fr. Lombardi said that he will maintain his position as the prefecture's president while at the same time working in his new mandate.