Life After Ruini?
According to the Italian wire ANSA, the Italian bishops were shocked late last month to have received a request for consultation from the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Paolo Romeo, seeking their input on names of possible successors to Cardinal Camillo Ruini as head of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI in Italiano).
Ruini reaches the canonical retirement age of 75 this coming Sunday, 19 February.
As opposed to most other countries, where the head of the episcopal conference is elected by the body of bishops, the head of the CEI is appointed by the Primate of Italy, the Pope, who asked Romeo to carry out the unusual consultation, which was last done by the then-new Pope, John Paul II, in 1979.
Ruini has served as head of the conference and vicar for Rome since 1990 and was made a cardinal in 1991. His third five-year term as president ends on 6 March, but ANSA reports that the Pope's intent is to confirm him in office until October, when the Italian church holds its national convention in Verona -- an event of "great importance," according to the wire.
While Ruini's term as president is nearing its close, it is believed that given his particular closeness with Benedict XVI, he will remain as vicar for Rome for the foreseeable future after his 75th birthday under the stipulations of "donec aliter provideatur" -- that is, "until further provision is made," which allows for an open-ended window of continued service past the canonical age limit.
The cardinal has been notably prolific, and seen in some quarters as controversial, over his decade and a half at the head of the Italian church's national apparatus. Most notable among his many achievements has been the growth in stature and organization of the conference's daily newspaper, Avvenire.
SVILUPPO (5.50pm) -- The story of the consultation (or, as it's being called in Italian, the "primarie" or primaries) is so big it made the 11 o'clock news in Italy. Il Messaggero cites its sources in reporting that the "most accredited" candidate seems to be Cardinal Angelo Scola, the patriarch of Venice. Others mentioned are the other Italian cardinal-archbishops: Severino Poletto of Turin, Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan and Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, the former right-hand to Ratzinger at the CDF.
Orazio Petrosillo also reports that replacements should be coming quickly for the two senior Italian prelates at or near the retirement age: Cardinals Michele Giordano of Naples and Salvatore DeGiorgi of Palermo, who both turned 75 last September.
Petrosillo doesn't mention it but, echoing earlier musings of Sandro Magister and others, the name of 56 year-old Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, a Ratzinger favorite seen by many as an eventual papabile, continues to hold the pole position in the tipping for Naples.