He has applied this rule several times recently: to Msgr. Luigi Mistò of the Secretariat for the Economy (not to be confused with the Council), replaced by Maximino Caballero Ledo; Msgr. Mauro Rivella, formerly secretary of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, was replaced at the end of his five-year term mandate with a layman, Fabio Gasperini.
Pope Francis also replaced his private Secretary, Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, who stayed one year longer than the 5-year term.
The replacement of the members of the Council was then expected.
Pope Francis, by the way, did not replace all of them. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, stays as the coordinator of the Council. Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, archbishop of Durban, has been confirmed until he turns 80 – he is currently 79.
The confirmation of Cardinal Marx likely indicates that the Pope is willing to maintain a certain continuity in the work of the Council. Seen from another perspective, it tells that a five-year mandate is often insufficient to build something new and lasting.
The six new cardinal-members are Petr Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest; Odilo Pedro Scherer, Archbishop of Sao Paulo in Brazil; Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec; Joseph William Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, Anders Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm; Giuseppe Petrocchi, Archbishop of L’Aquila.
Among the new members, the presence of Cardinal Scherer is particularly noteworthy. Cardinal Scherer was one of the Council of Fifteen members and a member of the Cardinals Commission of the Institute for Religious Works (the so-called “Vatican Bank”).
Pope Francis sent him out from both at the beginning of the pontificate, and his exclusion from the Council of Fifteen was particularly striking. It is worth remembering that the Cardinal-members of the Council were: Reinhard Marx; Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, Daniel DiNardo; Wilfrid Fox Napier; Jean-Pierre Ricard; Norberto Rivera Carrera; John Tong Hon; Agostino Vallini.
Except for Cardinals DiNardo and Napier, all the other initial members are retired. Cardinal John Tong Hon is currently administering the diocese of Hong Kong, but this is just because of the death of his successor and the delay (or prudence) in choosing a successor.
With two noteworthy exceptions, then, the original cardinal-members of the Council were all retired or about to retire.
The return of Cardinal Scherer is therefore food for thought. Has Pope Francis called him back to Rome because of his experience in these matters? If so, why did the Pope reverse his judgment?
Another impressive comeback is that of Cardinal Petr Erdö. Cardinal Erdö is a skilled canon lawyer that Pope Francis chose as the general relator of the two Synods on family. The Cardinal has always taken traditional positions, and it seemed evident that most of the debates that arose during the Synods were beyond his will or imagination.
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His comeback to Rome might show Pope Francis’ particular appreciation for his work. Cardinal Erdö has always worked quietly and diligently. He is currently organizing the World Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, postponed to September 2021 due to the coronavirus crisis.
Along with two Cardinals of the “Old Guard,” Pope Francis brought into the Council Cardinal Anders Arborelius, who is a sort of outsider in these matters. The Pope also appointed Cardinal Joseph Tobin a member, and this is a sign of the Pope’s appreciation for the current Archbishop of Newark.
The composition seems to be a balance between old and new that should help the Commission navigate a difficult economic scenario.
This is typical of Pope Francis: he combines old and new to have a balance of powers, and likely not to be targeted by any faction. Each of the members is a guarantee for some ideological positions.
The composition of the lay-members is also more interesting. None of the new members has been involved in the past with the significant reform of the Vatican economy.
The former lay members were Joseph F.X. Zahra; Jean-Baptiste de Franssu; John Kule, Enrique Llano Cueto; Jochen Messemer; Francesco Vermiglio; and George Yeo.