.- After months of anticipation, the Italian Bishops Conference has a new leader. 64 year-old Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco has been appointed the new president of the CEI, replacing Cardinal Camillo Ruini.
Archbishop Bagnasco will remain the ordinary of Genoa, a post he took to replace current Vatican Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone.
Bagnasco is said to be “close” personally to Cardinal Ruini, who retires at age 76, after holding the presidency for 16 years. Ruini who served as an auxiliary Bishop of Rome during his reign as CEI president became a visible spokesman for the Italian Church and arguably wielded more power than any of his predecessors. The decision to keep Archbishop Bagnasco in Genoa is thought to be an attempt to keep the CEI from stepping on the toes of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.
According to Italian news agency, ANSA, the new head of the bishops' conference (CEI) is seen as a “reserved but affable man with a keen interest in social affairs, partly because of his working class background. His views on key questions of Church policy are reportedly always in the middle.”
The archbishop was ordained a priest of Genoa in 1966. In January 1998 he was named a Bishop of the Diocese of Pesaro, which in 2000 was named an Archdiocese. Bagnasco was made the Archbishop of the Italian Military Services in 2003 and in August of 2006 tookover the Archdiocese of Genoa for Cardinal Bertone.
Although Bagnasco is not yet a cardinal, he is expected to receive a red hat from Pope Benedict at the next consistory, which some sources say could be late in the spring.
ANSA reports that one of Bagnasco's first jobs will be to present a document which Ruini promised recently, amid a political debate over an Italian government bill giving certain rights to cohabiting couples, including same-sex ones.
After Ruini made it clear the Church opposes any legal recognition for unmarried couples, he said the CEI would issue a document offering guidance to Catholic lawmakers on how to act on the question.
For his part Ruini, will remain in active service to the Church as Vicar of the Archdiocese of Rome.