Pope Francis made a major reshuffle of the Council of Cardinals yesterday. The exchange of the European representative is particularly striking: Cardinal Reinhard Marx was replaced by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich. A nod to the German Bishops' Conference and the "synodal path".
(Rome) The Cardinal Council, which advises the Pope on Curial reform and the leadership of the universal Church, was fundamentally re-appointed by Francis yesterday. There are several notable signals associated with this. The replacement of Cardinal Reinhard Marx as representative of Europe can be understood as a sign of disapproval for the German "synodal way".
The body was set up by Francis a month after his election and initially had eight, then nine members. Eventually it dwindled to only six members remaining for a long time, which was then increased to seven again. The designation C8, then C9 Council of Cardinals was eventually dropped due to the ever-changing size, which caused some confusion as there are other bodies with similar names in the Vatican.
The basic idea, as communicated in the 2013 election year, was to shift the weight from the Roman Curia to the continents. Each continent was to be represented by a deputy, with reality for the American double continent making double representation obvious. However, Francis shifted the balance by also appointing a representative for Central America. The reason for this was less due to geography, but more to the papal desire to appoint his close friend, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Óscar Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga SDB, to the Council and to commission him with the coordination of the Cardinal Council.
Cardinal Maradiaga completed his 80th year at the end of December, which is why he had to give up his office due to the new constitution for the Roman Curia, which stipulates an age limit of 80 years. Maradiaga, who presented himself as “vice-pope” early in the current pontificate and positioned himself as a possible successor to Francis, has experienced a sudden fall since 2018. This was not so visible to the outside world because Francis continued to hold his protective hand over his advisor.
The original C8 Council of Cardinals in 2013, before the addition of the Cardinal Secretary of State.
In September 2013, Francis made the original provisional facility permanent. The Council of Cardinals has only been expanded once in its almost ten-year existence, in spring 2014, when the new Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin was appointed the ninth member, increasing the number of Curia representatives to two.
In the almost ten years of its existence, however, the body was only complete for three years, because in June 2017 the Cardinal Council began to crumble. Francis used the orchestrated accusations against Cardinal George Pell, the representative of Oceania, to remove him from Rome. At the end of 2018, the representatives of South America (because of the sexual abuse scandal that shook Chile) and Africa (due to age) dropped out.
For two years, the southern hemisphere was no longer represented at all in the Council of Cardinals. It was only in October 2020 that Francis appointed the Archbishop of Kinshasa, whom he had already appointed to the diocese there in 2018, as the new representative of Africa.
South America only got a representation again yesterday. In all, Francis has now reappointed six out of nine members. Only Asian representative Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, and North American representative Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley OFMCap, Archbishop of Boston, are still there from the beginning. Both were appointed with the establishment of the Council of Cardinals on April 13, 2013. Cardinal Secretary of State Parolin, who was called in in April 2014, also ensures continuity.
With Maradiaga's departure, the number of members of the Council of Cardinals would have dropped back to six. The unexpected death of Cardinal Pell at the beginning of January cleared the way for the reoccupation of Oceania. Francis could have reinstated Pell after his ordeal and acquittal, but did not. The non-occupation may have been seen as a small sign of "compensation". Or not, because even after the reshuffle, Oceania is no longer represented in the Cardinal Council. Its size is “small”, it is said informally. In doing so, Francis had reshuffled the map in this part of the world.
When he was elected in 2013, there was only the “conservative” Cardinal Pell as Oceania’s only wearer of the purple. With a penchant for the exotic, Francis has since appointed three other cardinals from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga. Apparently, Santa Marta was not able to befriend anyone to the point of appointing him to the Council of Cardinals. The reason is another. With his appointments, Francis strives for weightings, above all in terms of content, and in Santa Marta this means that the representatives should be loyal to him.
Since the Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello has meanwhile retired as President of the Government (Governatorate) of Vatican City State, Francis appointed his successor, the Spaniard Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, as the new representative of the Roman Curia.
The representation of Central America was eliminated, revealing once again that the position was only ad personam for Cardinal Maradiaga.
The representation of Oceania was also eliminated as the space was needed for another representative due to the alignment of the panel.
North America is no longer represented by US Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, but by Archbishop of Quebec Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix. To be precise, the territorial key is no longer emphasized.
Cardinal O'Malley remains a member of the Council of Cardinals, albeit more in his capacity as President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children, established to combat sexual abuse. With the axis shift, Francis signals that he wants to take this fight more seriously. Until now, he only reacted when it was no longer possible to avoid it. The McCarrick case in the USA represents the failure of the proclaimed zero-tolerance policy. Francis did not change course afterwards, but only increased the display of his announcements. To this day he refuses to even name the main problem of clerical abuse. A good 80 percent of all cases of abuse can be traced back to homosexual perpetrators. Here Francis finds himself in an ideological and strategic dilemma – to the detriment of the Church – because at the same time he is pushing for an “openness” to homosexuality. Cardinal O'Malley himself is considered a personality of integrity in his work.
For Latin America, now Central and South America together, Francis appointed Brazilian Cardinal Sergio da Rocha Archbishop of San Salvador de Bahia.
The most notable change concerns Europe. The “old” continent, with which Francis has a kind of love-hate relationship, was surprisingly upgraded like North America. He now counts two representatives. It is particularly striking that the previous representative of Europe, the German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, was not confirmed in office. The signal is of far-reaching importance. His successor is Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, Archbishop of Luxembourg.
Informally, the change in appointment is justified by the fact that Marx was President of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) in 2013 and that this office is now held by Cardinal Hollerich. Apart from the fact that the link to the office of COMECE chairman would be a narrowing of Europe, because only the bishops' conferences of the EU are organized in it, but Europe is known to be more than the EU, the change at the COMECE leadership from Marx to Hollerich has already taken place exactly five years ago to the day. So there were other reasons for Francis to bet on Cardinal Marx in 2013 and also after 2018. That has now changed and is directly related to the development of the Church in the Federal Republic of Germany and the synodal path. Marx's dismissal is a signal of disapproval to the German Bishops' Conference.
Now some are of the opinion that the differences between the Rhine-Franconian Marx and the Mosel-Franconian Hollerich are not particularly great, and neither are those between the German restless spirits and Santa Marta. The point, however, is that Francis does not want his path dictated by either Cardinal Marx, the German Bishops' Conference, or a German "synodal path." He had already made that clear earlier, but it was obviously not sufficiently understood in Germany. Francis has now shifted the emphasis to Cardinal Hollerich, whom he himself elevated to the rank of cardinal and, above all, from whom, as a Jesuit, he can expect obedience. And that's what Francis is all about. He demands loyalty. The German eccentricity has been annoying for a long time.
The second European appointment is new. Francis also appointed Cardinal Juan José Omella, Archbishop of Barcelona, to the Council of Cardinals. How his presence is justified is unclear, but is consistent with North America's revaluation. It is known that Omella, who was appointed Archbishop by Francis and promoted to Cardinal, is valued by the Pope. His appointment seems to follow criteria similar to those of Maradiaga in 2013. Francis wants loyal collaborators and secure majorities.
After the southern hemisphere was not represented at all for several years, the axis formally shifted towards the "West" in the tenth year of Francis' pontificate, with Europe and North America each having two, i.e. a total of four, representatives in the nine-member Cardinal Council. Reality has caught up with Francis, too, as one Vaticanist put it.
The first meeting of the newly appointed body, which can now be called the C9 Cardinal Council again to distinguish it from other bodies of the same or similar name, will take place next April 24th.
North America is represented on the newly appointed C9 Cardinal Council with two seats: Cardinal O'Malley (USA, left) and Cardinal Lacroix (Canada).
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Trans: Tancred vekron99@hotmail.Com
G-d bless and guide the Holy Father!
He is no longer extreme enough.
So which is worse? Mao or Stalin?
So which is worse? Mao or Stalin?
Stalin was definitely cuter, but I heard that Mao was more fun at parties.
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