La Plata, Argentina, Jun 2, 2018 / 10:09 am
Pope Francis has appointed his personal theologian and ghostwriter Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez to head the Argentinian Archdiocese of La Plata, the Holy See’s press office announced Saturday.
Fernandez, 55, replaces Archbishop Héctor Aguer, who turned 75 in May, the age at which diocesan bishops are required to submit letters of resignation to the pope.
Fernandez was replaced as rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina in April after serving in the position since 2011, and university officials told CNA at the time Fernandez was hoping to be named Archbishop of La Plata, considered to be the second most important Argentinian archdiocese, after Buenos Aires.
The archbishop is a controversial figure in the Church in Argentina, because of some of the publications of his past, and because of his open claim that he can interpret Pope Francis at almost every turn, CNA’s executive director Alejandro Bermudez said in an April 2018 analysis for Catholic News Agency.
Fernandez was born in 1962 in the small rural town of Alcira, in the Province of Córdoba. He was ordained a priest in August 1986 in Río Cuarto, a mostly rural diocese. In 1988 he obtained a degree in theology with a biblical specialization at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and then obtained a doctorate in theology at the UCA in 1990.
With the recommendation of then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, in the early 90s he moved to Buenos Aires, where he was appointed a consultor to several commissions within the Argentinean bishops’ conference and the Latin American Bishops Council (CELAM).
Having shown a great capacity for writing, Cardinal Bergoglio brought Fernandez as an expert to the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Bishops, held in 2007 at the Brazilian Marian shrine of Aparecida. It is said that Cardinal Bergoglio, head of the drafting committee of the General Conference, relied heavily on Fernandez’ ability to synthesize a diverse set of viewpoints in his writing, according to Bermudez.
Aparecida, many sources have claimed, solidified the relationship between the future Pope and the theologian.