In 2018, the Pope appointed the new bishop of Camerino-San Severino Marche, a small diocese with less than 60,000 faithful.
In 2019, the Pope began the reduce the number of dioceses by putting a group of them under the administration of one only bishop.
In February, the diocese of Palestrina was united to the diocese of Tivoli in persona episcopi (in the person of the bishop). In April, Bishop Stefano Russo, general secretary of the Italian Bishops Conference, left the administration of the diocese of Fabriano-Matelica. There was no successor appointed, and Bishop Francesco Massara of Camerino took over the administration of the diocese.
Also, in April, Bishop Valentino Di Cerbo of Alife Caiazzo resigned because he reached retirement age. No successor was appointed, while the bishop of Sessa Aurunca was appointed apostolic administrator of the diocese.
In May, the bishop Roberto Carboni of Ales-Terralba was promoted as Archbishop of Oristano, to replace the retired archbishop Ignazio Sanna.
Finally, in November, the diocese of Susa went under the administration of the Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin.
Pope Francis is then reducing de facto the number of the Italian dioceses, not seeking anymore for the Italian Bishops' green light or even their suggestions.
Italian Bishops also did not have a positive reaction to the idea of a possible Synod for the Church in Italy, either. The Italian Church periodically meets in an "Ecclesial convention," a big, week-longconference that takes place every ten years.
The proposal of a Synod for the Church of Italy would then be a "double" of this meeting, and more than one bishop was doubtful about the opportunity of doing it.
Fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, launched the proposal for a Synod of the Italian Church in an article penned in the number 4047 of the Jesuit bi-monthly magazine. Fr. Spadaro asked for "a real exercise of synodality within the Church" that would help to read our today history and to discern."
In the number 4062 of La Civiltà Catholic, then, Fr. Bartolomeo Sorge relaunched the idea. He also stressed that "the hoped-for renewal of the Italian Church cannot but be the fruit of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A mere national Ecclesial convention cannot be enough. Would not be then a Synod?"
(Column continues below)
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Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, the president of the Italian Bishops Conference, seems to be among the bishops who are said to be against the project of a Synod. Cardinal Bassetti is now 77, and it seems he is willing to leave the leadership of the Italian bishops in advance – his five-year term should end in 2022.
Pope Francis might choose Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna, as new president of the Italian Bishops Conference. Cardinal Zuppi was among those who backed the idea of a Synod.
Another possible new president of the Italian Bishops Conference is Cardinal Angelo de Donatis, Pope Francis' vicar for the diocese of Rome.
In addition, Pope Francis might put some of his more trusted collaborators at the helm of the most important Italian dioceses, so that they could carry forward his reforms of the Italian Church.
For this reason, there are rumors about the possible appointment of Fr. Antonio Spadaro as Archbishop of Naples. Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the current archbishop, will turn 77 this year and will end his two years' extension past retirement age.
Another "bishop-to-be" might be Fr. Giacomo Costa, SJ, editor of Aggiornamenti Sociali, well known in the Vatican as secretary of the Commission for Information of the Pan- Amazonian synod.