Pope Francis had previously asked the Italian bishops to adopt a new statute that would allow them to elect the president themselves, but the bishops preferred to leave the choice to the pope, who as Bishop of Rome is also the Primate of Italy.
Under a compromise arrangement, the bishops presented a list of the three candidates with the most votes to the pope, who could then choose between the three or opt for a different candidate.
Zuppi succeeds 80-year-old Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, who led the bishops’ conference for a five-year term beginning in 2017.
Pope Francis made Zuppi a cardinal in 2019. For years, the Rome native has been listed among the “papabili” — possible future popes — but has made light of the speculation.
Before being transferred to Bologna, Zuppi was an auxiliary bishop of Rome for three years. He was responsible for the city’s historic center area, which includes the Trastevere neighborhood, where the headquarters of the Sant’Egidio Community is located.
Sant’Egidio is a Catholic lay association that aids migrants and promotes ecumenism. It has also helped negotiate reconciliation, including by holding peace talks in countries like Mozambique and South Sudan.