Tuesday, September 19, 2006

San Gennaro in Naples, San Damaso in Exile

Some of our Roman readers will appreciate seeing this picture -- not so much for the liquified blood of St Gennaro on this, his feast, but for who's holding the vial: the new archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe... a scenario foreseen on these pages a year ago today.

A former Assessore of the Secretariat of State, Sepe's June move to Naples from the prefect's post at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples made him the first cardinal-head of a Roman dicastery in decades to be dispatched to a diocese -- and, in the eyes of some, the first casualty of Benedict XVI's purge of the church's central administration, which will be picking up speed following the installation of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB as Secretary of State.

Now that, through Bertone, the sitting pontiff has taken the reins of his Curia's top office, the phrase "an appointment a day" has been used to describe the anticipated reshuffle of senior offices, originally slated to begin at month's end. In recent days, however, it's been foreseen that in light of the recent controversy involving the Pope's lecture at Regensburg and the necessary attention of the Holy See to handle it properly, ad intra announcements might be delayed for a brief period.

For the moment, though, one notable question of Vatican representation looms on this side of the Pond. It's UN Week in New York -- something many of you know due to the insane clogging and closures in the streets of Manhattan. And for 15 years, the international gathering was Cardinal Angelo Sodano's time to shine, as the now-retired top lieutenant held court from a table at his beloved Big Apple commissary, Le Cirque.

One drawback to the timing of the Stato shake-up is a slight to the UN plenary -- which, as many of you know, was the lure for the first papal trip to the American continent (Paul VI in 1965) and the marquee event for two US visits of John Paul II (1979 and 1995). Friday's installation of Bertone and the appointment of Archbishop Dominique Mamberti as his "foreign minister" creates the unusual scenario -- an intended signal? -- that neither the Vatican Secretary of State, nor his top deputy, is in attendance at the General Assembly.

Given the absence of the top two papal diplomats, the Holy See -- which enjoys state-observer status at the UN's dual hubs of New York and Geneva -- will ostensibly be represented this week by its Permanent Observer, Archbishop Celestino Migliore. Yesterday, the Pope received Cardinal Bertone in private audience, accompanied by the members of his family.

AP/Salvatore Laporta