Vatican Diary / The bishop factory no longer speaks the language of Dante
The officials of this extremely important curia congregation were all Italian with John Paul II. With the current pope, they are all foreigners. Name by name, here's how they have changed
VATICAN CITY, October 12, 2011 – With Benedict XVI, is the Roman curia again becoming "too" Italian? The cry of alarm has
been launched by the progressive English weekly "The Tablet," and picked up again here and there.
Church historian Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Saint Egidio, which also has the reputation of being progressive, has defended such an evolution. He has repeatedly explained that the Holy See cannot become like just any great international organization: "The curia cannot become a kind of UN, because it is part of the Roman Church and must maintain a particular ecclesial, human, and cultural connection with it."
With pope Joseph Ratzinger there is, however, one Vatican congregation – and it is one of the most important and delicate – that today has been completely de-Italianized in its leadership, with comparison to the organizational chart left by John Paul II.
It is the congregation for bishops, the dicastery that collaborates most closely with the pope for the appointment of most of the bishops of the Catholic Church: in practice, of almost all of the bishops of the Western world.
In 2005, this congregation was headed by three Italian ecclesiastics, the only case of its kind among the dicasteries of the curia. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re had been its prefect since 2000. Archbishop Francesco Monterisi had been its secretary since 1998. Monsignor Giovanni Maria Rossi had been its undersecretary since 1993.
But with current pope, little by little, the three have given way to foreigners.
In July of 2009, after turning 75, Monterisi was appointed archpriest of the papal basilica of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls and made a cardinal. A Portuguese was called in to replace him, Archbishop Monteiro de Castro, until that time the apostolic nuncio in Spain.
At the end of June, 2010, Cardinal Re, at the age of seventy-six and a half, had the pope accept the resignation that he had presented to him when he turned 75. And in his place Benedict XVI called the Canadian Marc Ouellet. Who, at the end of 2010, obtained the appointment as adjunct undersecretary (a novelty for the congregation)of a trusted fellow Canadian, Serge Poitras.
Last week, finally, Monsignor Rossi left his post after reaching the age of 70, which is the retirement age for undersecretaries (apart from an extension of two years that can be granted only with the "placet" of the prefect of the dicastery).
So that now, in order to find the highest ranking Italian cardinal in the congregation for bishops, one must move down to the third of the three officials in charge, Monsignor Fabio Fabene, who is also the substitute of the secretariat of the college of cardinals.
In short, the Roman curia may be more Italian than before with Benedict XVI. But the "bishop factory" is certainly much less so.
In part because in early September, another Italian member of this congregation for nine years, Monsignor Giulio Dellavite – a trusted ecclesiastic of former prefect Re – returned, at the age of 39, to the diocese of his origin, Bergamo. Appointed secretary general of the curia of this diocese by Bishop Francesco Beschi, a native of nearby Brescia, the diocese of birthplace of Cardinal Re himself.
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.