Pope Francis has appointed Father Claudio Pablo Castricone, a priest of the Archdiocese of Santa Rosa (Argentina), as auxiliary bishop of Orán.
The appointment is highly unusual: the northern Argentine diocese has only 330,000 Catholics. Of the 30 auxiliary bishops in Argentina, only one serves in a diocese with under 600,000 Catholics. The Archdiocese of Salta, which is Orán’s metropolitan archdiocese, has over 1 million Catholics but no auxiliary bishops.
From 2013 to 2017, the diocese was governed by Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, who had worked closely with the future Pope at the Argentine Episcopal Conference.
In August 2017, Pope Francis accepted Bishop Zanchetta’s resignation for “health reasons”; four months later, the Pope appointed him assessor of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which manages the Holy See’s real estate and other assets and investments.
It later emerged that diocesan priests had complained to the Vatican that Bishop Zanchetta had pornographic images of youths on his phone; they also alleged financial mismanagement, abuse of power, and the sexual abuse of seminarians. In 2022, an Argentine court convicted Bishop Zanchetta of sexually abusing two seminarians.
Following Zanchetta’s resignation, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Andrés Stanovnik, OFM Cap, of Corrientes as apostolic administrator of Orán. It was an unusual choice, as Corrientes and Orán are over 500 miles apart, but Stanovnik was a close associate of both Pope Francis and Bishop Zanchetta.
Indeed, in the 1980s Stanovnik, had been Zanchetta’s novice master; after Zanchetta left the Capuchin Franciscan order, Stanovnik became the parish priest of the remote small town from which Zanchetta had graduated from high school.
Later, in 2018, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Luis Antonio Scozzina, OFM, as bishop of Orán. Scozzina at the time led an institute at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, whose president, Father (now Archbishop) Víctor Manuel Fernández, was appointed by the future Pope Francis in 2009.
Father Castricone, Orán’s new auxiliary bishop, is a parish priest (Facebook) in Rosario, Argentina’s third-largest city; he has also been entrusted with the pastoral care of the residents of the impoverished barrios there.
In a 2013 article, Father Castricone said he had met the future Pope in 2007 and that he enthusiastically supported the Pope’s ideal of a “poor Church for the poor.”
He also predicted that Pope Francis would govern in a collegial, rather than top-down manner, and that the Pope would be willing to engage in dialogue about all issues.