Bishop Ricardo Valenzuela with Fernando Lugo, then President of Paraguay. Lugo was previously Bishop of San Pedro. In 2008 he was the liberation theologian laicized by Pope Benedict XVI. Valenzuela and Lugo had both studied at the Gregoriana in Rome.
(Asuncion) Already in recent weeks, it has been said that Pope Francis might create new cardinals at the end of the month. The media in Paraguay report that this time the South American country is likely to get a cardinal. While at the end of June, as possible timing of cardinal elevations becomes less likely, the number of ultraprogressive contenders for the Cardinal rank is increasing.
The Cardinals under 80 choose the Pope. Any consistory for the creation of new cardinals convened by Pope Francis represents a powerful push towards progressive succession.
At the feast of the apostolic princes Peter and Paul, the Pope traditionally awards the pallium to the metropolitans appointed last year, as the visible sign of their attachment to the Bishop of Rome and the universal Church. In May, voices thickened that the ruling pope could take the opportunity to create new cardinals. The date seemed unusual because there is currently no need, as the full number of papal electors is given. This was last set to 120 by Pope John Paul II. Katholisches.info reported when this need will be restored.
In recent days, "rumors have intensified" that Paraguay will get a cardinal in the next cardinal surveys, as the Paraguayan daily ABC Color said yesterday. As possible contenders for the Cardinalatial purple the newspaper has named Bishop Ricardo Valenzuela of Caacupé (not to be confused with Archbishop Edmundo Valenzuela of Asuncion), Bishop Adalberto Martinez of Villarrica and at the same time President of the Paraguayan Episcopal Conference, and Bishop Francisco Pistilli of Encarnacion. All three have been already promoted by Pope Francis. The greatest opportunities are said to belong to Bishop Valenzuela. A few weeks ago he had already been called to Rome to talk about this issue, local voices said. However, on request from ABC Color, Bishop Valenzuela said "jokingly" that it was "just rumors and nothing more". The trip to Europe did not take him to Rome but to Lourdes.
The Paraguayan episcopacy is strongly liberation theological, as shown by the conflict over Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano of Ciudad del Este who was an exception in the South American country. Due to disturbance of unity in the episcopate, he was deposed in 2014 by Pope Francis in a despotic manner. He refused a conversation. Bishop Livieres spoke of an "intrigue of other bishops" and warned that Pope Francis would even have to answer to God for the impeachment. Katholisches.info called the papal intervention "the nightmare of this pontificate: purges without procedure". A year later, the plucky bishop died as a result of an operation.
Bishop Valenzuela has the closest contact with Pope Francis. When Francis deposed Bishop Livieres, he appointed Msgr. Valenzuela, then reputed to be the most progressive Bishop of Paraguay, Apostolic Administrator of Ciudad del Este. For Bishop Livieres the appointment was an additional slap in the face of the deposition. Valenzuela, at that time Bishop of Villarrica, was entrusted by Francis with the execution of the Church renewal by Bishop Livieres. As a reminder: Bishop Livieres, a member of Opus Dei and an Argentine like Pope Francis, was one of the first to remove his seminarians from the Joint Paraguayan Seminary in Asuncion, following their appointment as Bishop of Ciudad del Este, to protect them from progressive and liberation theological influences. He promoted priestly vocations and in the parishes, Eucharistic adoration and the traditional Roman rite. He established his own seminary just for his diocese. Although the Diocese of Ciudad del Este covers only ten percent of Catholics in the country, the seminary of Bishop Livieres numbered 70 percent of all seminarians in Paraguay.
At present, 45 cardinals come from the American continent.
In the view of another candidate, who is vigorously named as a possible purple bearer, the Portuguese theologian and Archbishop José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça, was named by Jornal Madeira recently with a more realistic date for February 2020. Curial Archbishop José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça is one of those who want to "liberate" the Church from its dogmas.
Also the last Sunday in the Church year, the Christ the King celebration in Novus Ordo, could be a possible date for a consistory. Because of the vacant positions in the College of Papal Electors, the cardinal elevations should take place only in the spring of 2020.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: Presidencia (screenshot)
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