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Pope Francis appoints new archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica

Cardinal_Mauro_Gambetti_OFM_Conv_receives_the_red_hat_from_Pope_Francis_on_Nov_28_2020_Credit_Vatican_Media.jpg Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, O.F.M. Conv. receives the red hat from Pope Francis on Nov. 28, 2020. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis on Saturday named Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, O.F.M. Conv., to succeed Cardinal Angelo Comastri as archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica and vicar general for Vatican City State.

The resignation of Comastri, 77, was also accepted by Pope Francis Feb. 20. Comastri had filled the posts since 2005.

Gambetti, who was elevated to the position of cardinal in November 2020, was general custos, or head, of the convent attached to the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi from 2013 to 2020.

With the positions of archpriest and vicar general, Gambetti was also appointed president of the Fabric of St. Peter, the office responsible for maintenance of the basilica.

At 55 years old, Gambetti is the third youngest member of the College of Cardinals.

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He has been a member of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual since 1992, and according to GCatholic.org, he was the first Conventual Franciscan to become a cardinal since 1861.

Born in a small city outside of Bologna in 1965, Gambetti earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Bologna— the oldest university in the world— before joining the Conventual Franciscans at the age of 26.

He made his final vows in 1998 and was ordained a priest in 2000. Following his ordination, he served in youth ministry in the Italian region of Emilia Romagna before being elected superior of the Franciscans in the Bologna province in 2009.

At his episcopal consecration on Nov. 22, 2020, in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Gambetti said he felt he was taking a leap into the deep.

“There are turning points in life, which sometimes involve taking leaps. What I am experiencing now, I consider as a dive from the springboard into the open sea, while I hear myself repeating: ‘duc in altum,’” Gambetti said, quoting the command of Jesus to Simon Peter to “put out into the deep.”

The archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica is in charge of the worship and pastoral activity of the basilica. The position has a long history and has always been assigned to a cardinal. Since 1991, the archpriest of the basilica is also the pope’s vicar for the Vatican City State.

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The archpriest is one of the pope’s closest collaborators, and manages and organizes the worship of the most emblematic temple in the Catholic world, with 45 altars and 11 chapels, plus additional chapels below the basilica in the Vatican Grottoes.

The basilica’s Mass schedule usually includes six Masses on weekdays and five Masses on Sundays. Besides the regular schedule, there is the possibility for priests and bishops to offer Mass in every chapel of the basilica, which can be booked by pilgrim groups or individuals.

Comastri is a well-known preacher. During Italy’s coronavirus lockdown in spring 2020, he began leading a daily livestream of the rosary from St. Peter’s Basilica.

From a town in southern Tuscany, Comastri was ordained a priest in 1967. His first Vatican position was in 1968 as an official in the Congregation for Bishops.

Three years later he returned to his diocese to lead the diocesan seminary. He then spent 11 years as pastor of a parish before being named bishop of Massa Marittima-Piombino in 1990.

In 1994 he had to resign as bishop due to a sudden heart problem, but after recovering two years later, he was elected prelate of Loreto and pontifical delegate for the Basilica of the Holy House in Loreto.

Comastri preached the spiritual exercises for St. Pope John Paul II and the Roman Curia in 2003.

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