Recent Vatican appointments dominated by diplomats, say observers

Dome of St Peters Basilica Credit Alan Holdren CNA CNA Vatican Catholic News 10 17 12 Dome of St. Peter's Basilica. | Alan Holdren/CNA.

According to Vatican observers, a Pope Francis "revolution" in the Roman Curia began Sept. 21, when a series of appointments and confirmations at the curia's top ranks changed the face of the Pope's collaboration team.

Pope Francis on Saturday confirmed the heads of the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for the Evangelization of Peoples. In addition, he appointed Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, until now prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, as head of the Apostolic Penitentiary; Archbishop Beniamino Stella as prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy; and Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri secretary general of the Synod of Bishops.

These last appointments can be seen as a clear signal that the influence of diplomats in the Vatican is strong again, Gianfranco Svidercoschi, former vice-director of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, told CNA.

In a conversation on Sept. 20, Svidercoschi said that Archbishop Stella "was a diplomat in South America, as were many of those whom Pope Francis has recently appointed. This would seem to seal a sort of 'alliance' between Pope Francis and the 'gang of diplomats'."

Svidercoschi also notes that Archbishop "Stella and Baldisseri have been Papal ambassadors in South America, as was the appointed Secretary of State, (Archbishop) Pietro Parolin."

This would lead us to think that "being in touch with 'far Churches' is one of the most important requirements to take an important post in Pope Francis' curia," he added.

While Archbishop Stella takes the reigns for the discipline of clergy, Archbishop Baldisseri will be tasked with governing the synods of bishops, perhaps giving them greater decision-making power.

In a recent interview that Pope Francis granted to 16 Jesuit-run magazines in the world, he underlined that "the consistories (of cardinals), the synods (of bishops) are, for example, important places to make real and active this consultation. We must, however, give them a less rigid form. I do not want token consultations, but real consultations."

Svidercoschi concluded that "such important tasks have been entrusted to diplomats, and this would lead me to think that the old diplomatic establishment is again managing the control room of the Church."

Reports are also emerging that new appointments are soon to come. The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, may soon be appointed Archbishop of Madrid, replacing Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela, who has already served two years past the mandatory retirement age of 77.

It is possible that Archbishop Piero Marini, who was once master of ceremonies for Blessed John Paul II and who is now president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, could succeed Cardinal Cañizares at the Congregation for Divine Worship.

And according to a source who spoke to CNA Sept. 21 and asked for anonymity, a potential earthquake is awaited at the top of the Secretariat of State.

At the end of this week, the "permanent council" of Italian bishops' conference may confirm the appointment of Bishop Mariano Crociata, Bishop emeritus of Noto and general secretary of the Italian bishops' conference, as head of the country's Military Ordinariate, the source said.

The new secretary of the Italian bishops' conference may be Archbishop Arrigo Miglio of Cagliari, who would be succeeded by Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, a deputy at the state secretariat.

The source told CNA that "a vacancy at the number two post at the State Secretariat would open a new race inside the Vatican."

No doubt the post "will go to a skilled diplomat" he said, "since Pope Francis is seemingly going toward a reform of the State Secretariat that would make it a sort of clearing-house of diplomacy, leaving the general affairs to the Prefecture of the Papal Household."

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