Ancona, Italy, Feb 6, 2015 / 00:04 am
When he learned in January Pope Francis would make him a cardinal, Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli of Ancona-Osimo did not want to comment. He had turned 75 in October, presenting his resignation to the Pope.
But now that he will have a cardinal's biretta, many in his archdiocese are sure he will remain their ordinary for some time more, despite having reached retirement age.
Archbishop Menichelli is of the three Italians who will be made cardinal at the Feb. 14 consistory.
Born in the small town of Serripola – 14 miles northeast of Camerino – in 1939, Archbishop Menichelli was ordained a priest of the Diocese of San Severino in 1965. He had attended the seminaries of San Severino and Fano, and the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, where he attained a licentiate in pastoral theology.
While he spent much of his ecclesial career in Rome, Archbishop Menichelli has maintained strong connections with his hometown, where he spent the beginning years of his priesthood as a parochial vicar and a religion teacher in secondary schools.
From 1968 until 1991, he was an official of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church's supreme tribunal and a part of the Roman Curia, and then from 1992 to 1994 was on the staff of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, where he was secretary to the prefect, Cardinal Achille Silvestrini.
During his years in Rome, he also assisted in family ministry at a parish, served as chaplain at a hospital, and taught ethics to nurses at the Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic.
In 1994 he was appointed Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto.
He remained in Chieti-Vasto until 2004, when he was appointed Archbishop of Ancona-Osimo, thus sending him back to his home region of Marche.
As Archbishop of Ancona-Osimo, he organized the 2011 Eucharistic Congress in Ancona, which gathered hundreds of thousands of faithful and concluded with a Mass said Benedict XVI and a Eucharistic procession. He is known to have promoted both Corpus Christi processions and Eucharistic adoration.
Archbishop Menichelli is currently secretary of the Italian bishops' Commission for the Family.
He participated in the 2014 Synod on the Family at the will of Pope Francis, and he served there as relator of one of the Italian language groups.
"It is the first time I have taken part in a synod," he told Vatican Radio Oct. 14, "and I have been interiorly delighted from the way we have welcomed Pope Francis' invitation to speak with frankness and listen to one another with humility. I had the impression that a sense of communion regarding a common pastoral interest on family has increased during these days."
Archbishop Menichelli commented that the Church must listen more: "We live in a world so complex that we cannot, as the Church, pigeonhole everything in certain terms or certain precise concepts which we have had the habit of using."
He lamented that Familiaris consortio, St. John Paul II's apostolic exhortation following the 1980 Synod on the Family, has not been well-implemented, regarding preparation for marriage: "On this point I believe that the Church should ask pardon for a kind of 'unwilled', yet 'realized', disobedience. In St. John Paul II's Familiaris consortio, he spoke in fact of remote, proximate, and immediate marriage preparation. In reality, now it is limited only to the immediate, and engaged couples come to the altar with a lack of faith and infected by the culture. It does not take only a handful of meetings."
He stressed that for him, the question of the divorced and remarried was not whether or not they should receive Communion, but whether there had been a marriage in the first place: "reducing everything to 'Communion yes, Communion no' seems too little."
During the synod, Archbishop Menichelli also emphasized the importance of pastoral accompaniment of those who had divorced, and said that for three years, he has met monthly with a group of 80-90 divorced persons. "They know that the path of conversion is neither easy nor hasty," he said.
Regarding homosexuality, he affirmed that persons with homosexual orientations do, as persons, have something to offer the Church; but that "the problem is what these persons call a right does not correspond to the plan of God contained in the Bible," and that while the Church cannot enter into one's conscience, it is called "to accompany and to educate."
Archbishop Menichelli is well known as a preacher of great impact, and he was entrusted with guiding catechesis during World Youth Days by the Italian bishops conference. He is also known for his pastoral solicitude for the youth, having founded the Loreto Cross pilgrimages.
According to Il Messaggero, an Italian daily, he has also "always fought for the defense of the marginalized and the poor."
The Ancona diocese was once considered a cardinal see, but the last Cardinal Bishop of Ancona – until Archbishop Menichelli receives the red hat – was Cardinal Achille Manara, who died in 1906.
Archbishop Menichelli is one of 20 men who will be made a cardinal at this month's consistory, and one of the 15 who, being under the age of 80, would be able to vote in a papal conclave.