Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, former Archbishop of Boston, and appointed Spanish Archbishop Santos Abril y Castelló as the new archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.
Cardinal Law, who resigned in 2002 as Archbishop of Boston in the wake of the sex abuse scandal, turned 80 on Nov. 4.
A Vatican official explained to CNA on Nov. 21 that although the official retirement age for a post such as archpriest is 80, it is customary for cardinals to hold their positions for a longer period of time.
Cardinal Law's predecessor, Cardinal Carlo Furno, remained in his post until he turned 82, and the former archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, retired only a month from turning 84.
The same source explained, however, that it was Cardinal Law himself who requested a rapid replacement at the basilica.
At the age of 80, Cardinal Law will no longer have a vote in the papal conclave and will also cease to be an active member of several Vatican dicasteries.
The American cardinal was a member of the Congregation for Bishops as well as the Vatican congregations for Divine Worship, Evangelization of Peoples, Clergy, Consecrated Life and Catholic Education.
Cardinal Law was appointed by Pope John Paul II as archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in May of 2004 and has no plans to leave Rome in the near future.
His successor, 76-year-old Archbishop Castelló, has spent most of his life serving as an apostolic nuncio in countries such as Bolivia, Argentina, the former Yugoslavia and, most recently, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
As vice chamberlain of Holy Roman Church—a position he will maintain—the archbishop will be second in command in taking care of the papal funeral and the organization of a conclave after a pontiff dies.
Archbishop Abril will likely be created a cardinal in the next consistory, which Vatican sources believe will take place during the spring of 2012.