(Rome) Pope Francis appointed a new Secretary General of the Italian Episcopal Conference on the day before Christmas Eve. Even in the first month of his pontificate, the pope had asked the Italian bishops to draw up new statutes for the Episcopal Conference. While the bishops' conferences choose their own president and even determine their term of office (an exception is Belgium), in Italy the Pope as Bishop of Rome is also automatically chairman of the Bishops' Conference. However, this office, since its introduction by Pius XII, was never exercised by the reigning pope. He appoints a delegate that represents him as chairman. The right of appointment for the Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference is to also exercised by the Pope. The Italian bishops called on the new Pope to inform him whether the Chair and the Secretary General should continue to be appointed by the Pope, or whether they want to occupy these offices by election itself. Despite this request, the Pope goes "forward like a steam roller and decides everything himself," said Vaticanist Sandro Magister.
"Steamroller" Francis - Surprise Dismissal of General Secretary
Pope Francis unceremoniously dismissed the previous Secretary General of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Mariano Crociata and has appointed him as the bishop of the small Diocese of Latina-Terracina-Sezze-Priveno, which is th equivalent to the pushing him off to an insignificant place off the tracks. Bishop Crociata was appointed in 2008 by Benedict XVI. as Secretary General after he had previously been appointed as the Bishop of Nota.
On 28 December the announcement of the new Secretary-General was accomplished in an "entirely uncharacteristic way," said Magister. To appoint him instead of being in accordance with current regulations, that is, on the Bureau's proposal and after consulting the Permanent Council of the Bishops' Conference, Pope Francis appointed him arbitrarily and without consultation. But he did so with an unusual accessory, as if he were "asking permission" of the priests and faithful of the Diocese of the new Secretary General, the Pope literally said he would "took away" the bishop. This "request for permission" was of course rhetorical, formulated by the Pope in a "daring rhetorical construct" (Sandro Magister) in an open letter to the diocese. Clearly part of the current leadership of the Italian Bishops' Conference, consisting of Archbishop Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa and the Archbishops of Perugia, Potenza and Turin (the General Secretary, also a member of the Presidium, already being discharged), are not among of the most important interlocutors of the Pope.
Pope Asked the Diocese for "Permission" to be able to Appoint the Bishop to General Secretary
The newly appointed Secretary General is Bishop Nunzio Galatino Cassano all'Jonio. The 65-year-old bishop comes from Puglia. His diocese is located in Calabria and, with nearly 100,000 faithful to the smallest of the Apennine Peninsula. It's also unusual in the appointment is that it takes place only after an interim. It seems unclear whether it served as the removal of Bishop Crociata, or whether the did not anticipate Pope making a possible amendment of statutes of the Episcopal Conference, if he wants the bishops to appoint the Secretary-General themselves in the future. In this case, the question remains, why a change was made at this time. Secretary Galatino will remain at his own request a bishop of his diocese.
In his published letter to the diocese, the Pope asked the priests and faithful to permit their bishop "at least for a certain time for an important mission for the Italian Church" to go to Rome. He will, however, continue to be their bishop as the Pope declared that he would spend "a few days on a regular basis" in the diocese.
Pope Francis: "I Ask You to Understand Me ... and to Forgive Me"
"I ask you to understand me ... and to forgive me," the Pope wrote this at the end of the letter, dated 28 December, but it came into force immediately without waiting for a response from them even though the matter was raised in a rhetorical effort to priests and faithful.
The Bishops' Conference noted the unilateral action of the pope with two tight, cool press releases.
Msgr, Galatino was consecrated a bishop on 25 February and took over the management of his diocese. He is Professor of Anthropology at the Faculty of Theology for Southern Italy. In the Episcopal Conference, he was previously responsible for higher theological studies.
Upon his appointment ad interim, Bishop Galatino will undertake the rights, duties and responsibilities of the office of General Secretary, of the Italian Episcopal Conference, yet it is unknown how long the term of office will be, however. Pope Benedict XVI. had appointed Archbishop Bagnasco of Genoa as as his delegate and President of the Bishops Conference in 2007. He chose Bishop Crociata as Secretary General.
With the appointment of the new Secretary-General, a similar pattern can be determined in the Pope's approach in personnel decisions, that were repeatedly employed already in the Roman Curia. Also, the unexpected dismissal of Cardinal Bagnasco's General Secretary appears to be an indicator that the President of the Bishops' Conference may also be dismissed.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
image: Settimo Cielo
Trans: Tancred firstname.lastname@example.org
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