Pope Francis has made significant changes in the membership of the Congregation for Bishops which oversees the process for the selection of bishops in Europe, the americas and Oceania, reports Vatican Insider.
He gave this signal not only by appointing 12 new members to that body, but also by not confirming 14 of its existing membership, including some hitherto very influential cardinals.
In this latest move, which the Vatican announced yesterday, Pope Francis confirmed Cardinal Marc Ouellet (Canada) as prefect of the Congregation. He has held that post since 2010, and it had been widely expected that the Argentinean Pope would confirm him.
More significantly, however, the Pope - who last June stated clearly that he wants bishops to be poor, close to their people and not with ‘the psychology of princes’ - has appointed 12 new members to that congregation, including Archbishop Pietro Parolin, his new Secretary of State, Cardinals Donald Wuerl (USA), Joao Braz de Aviz (Brazil and Roman Curia), Kurt Koch (Switzerland and Roman Curia), and Archbishop Vincent Nichols (UK).
At the same time, he confirmed 18 out of the 33 former members of this body, among them Cardinals George Pell (Australia), Leonardo Sandri (Argentina and the Roman Curia), William Levada (USA) and Tarcisio Bertone (Italy) – though the latter will leave that body when he celebrates his 80th birthday in December 2014.
Apart from the new appointments, the most striking aspect of the Pope’s decision was the non-confirmation of the American cardinals Raymond Burke and Justin Rigali, the Italian cardinals Mauro Piacenza and Angelo Bagnasco, and the Spanish cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela.
From the perspective of the Catholic Church in the USA, the non-confirmation of Cardinals Rigali and Burke is particularly significant. Sources say Rigali, who stepped down as archbishop of Philadelphia in 2011, had played a major role in the selection of bishops for dioceses in the USA for some two decades.
Likewise, Cardinal Burke, the head of the Vatican’s Highest Tribunal – the Signatura Apostolica- and a leading figure in the conservative wing of the Church, had become a most influential player in the selection of US bishops ever since Benedict XVI appointed him to that congregation in 2009.