Vatican expert announces possible name of delegate to the Legion

Velasio De Paolis Archbishop Velasio de Paolis at a recent conference in the Pontifical Urban University

Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican expert from the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, announced in an article on Sunday that Pope Benedict has decided to appoint as Vatican delegate to the troubled Legionaries of Christ Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, C.S., President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.

“The Pope has decided the name of the delegate that will take care of the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, acting as a commissioner after the grave crisis and the emergence of the immoralities of the founder Fr. Marcial Maciel. The new delegate will be Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, an accomplished canon lawyer, President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, (a) close (associate of) the Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone,” Tornielli writes.

Tornielli also says that De Paolis’ appointment “will be made public in the upcoming days, with the appointment of the two vice-delegates, one for the Spanish speaking area and the other for the English speaking.”

Adding support to Tornielli’s prediction is that De Paolis was received in a private audience by the Holy Father last Saturday.

Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, who will turn 75 on September 19, was born in Lazio province near Rome, and later became a member of the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles, also known as “Scalabrinian Missionaries.” The Congregation was founded by Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini with the goal of maintaining “the Catholic faith and practice among Italian emigrants to the New World.” With the slowdown of Italian emigration, the congregation and their sister organizations, the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo and the Secular Institute of the Scalabrinian Missionary Women, minister to migrants and refugees around the world.

Archbishop De Paolis received a doctorate in canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, a licentiate in theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas, and a law degree at La Sapienza University in Rome.

He was ordained to the priesthood on March 18, 1961, and went on to teach canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Since earning his doctorate in canon law, De Paolis has become an accomplished scholar in the field, teaching at several pontifical universities. He was appointed Dean at the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Urban University in 1998.

On December 30, 2003, Pope John Paul II appointed De Paolis as Secretary of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican equivalent to the Supreme Court.

In April 2008, Pope Benedict appointed him President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, making him the chief auditor for the Vatican.

On January 25 of 2010 he was appointed a member of the Apostolic Signatura, where he will remain on as a member until his 80th birthday.

Archbishop De Paolis has always kept a low profile in the Roman Curia. Nevertheless, inside the Vatican he is not only known as an accomplished canon lawyer, but as one of the top experts on religious life from the canonical standpoint. 

In fact, this year, Marcianum Press published his latest book, a 758-page long work titled “La vita consacrata nella Chiesa” (Consecrated Life in the Church.)

He has been author or co-author of several other books on canon law, religious life and the financing of the Church, including “Non per denaro. Il sostegno economico alla Chiesa,” (Not Because of Money, economic support for the Church.”

In Italy, De Paolis is also known for being very strong on the rare occasions he  makes public statements.

In 2008, he explained that the Vatican denied access to Catholic churches in Rome to the producers of “Angels and Demons,” the Dan Brown novel turned into a film by American director Ron Howard, because Brown had “turned the Gospels upside down to poison the faith."

“It would be unacceptable to transform churches into film sets so that his blasphemous novels can be made into films in the name of business,” he said, adding that Brown’s work “wounds common religious feelings.”

Early this year, he locked horns with the city of Turin after the city council announced a special tax on pilgrims visiting the famous Shroud, to allegedly cover the “carbon footprint” of the buses coming into the city.

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“You don’t greet visitors, especially pilgrims, with a tax to offset some debatable costs. You welcome them, not only because their presence already brings benefits to the city, but especially because they come following the deepest motivation of the human soul,” De Paolis said of the proposed tax.

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