Monday, October 30, 2006

Terror Behind the Walls, Vatican Edition

Newly-updated with blogging capability, NCR's John Allen cites a La Stampa report that the Pope is poised to name the archbishop of Sao Paolo, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, as the new head of the Congregation for the Clergy, succeeding Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who turned 77 on the 4th of July.

As the veteran curialists are all hoping for treats on All Hallows Eve (or any other day, for that matter), Benedict XVI's fifth major curial appointment -- the fifth to be given to someone currently outside the Roman Curia -- will likely arouse some frightened screaming in the halls. Again.

While reports are mixed as to whether Castrillon will remain head of the Vatican's Tridentine outreach as president of the Pontifical Council Ecclesia Dei, indications are that, given the sensitive climate of the traditionalist brief at this time, a change in that post would be unlikely at this point.

Though La Stampa chimed in yesterday, readers of The Tablet already knew to keep an eye for something in the "goody bag" on October 31.

In his "Letter from Rome" in the paper's current edition, published Friday, Rome correspondent Robert Mickens tipped Halloween 2006 as the day when "Pope Benedict XVI will initiate the first phase of personnel changes in the upper echelons of the Roman Curia," saying that "if it’s true, the wry old Pope could not have picked a more symbolic date to begin issuing the new appointments."

According to Mickens, first on the retirement docket are Castrillon and Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, the 76 year-old prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. But "the word is that other significant offices will also get some new blood," the First Section of the Secretariat of State first among them.

Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who's served as Sostituto -- effectively, the Vatican equivalent of the White House chief of staff -- since 2000, is tipped to head to calmer pastures, a change foreseen in recent weeks with the naming of Sandri's closest aide to the staff of the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington.

Back to Hummes, 72, there is this curious angle, taken from Marco Tossati's scoop: "In effect, to be a well-rounded candidate [for the papacy, Hummes] lacks something: the experience of government in the Curia, necessary to complete the 'cursus honorum' ['the sequence of offices'] alongside the pastoral care of diocese. Then, with the appointment as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, the curriculum is complete.

"And who knows if Benedict XVI didn't think of this prospect -- we hope one long in coming -- when signing the decree of appointment."

Finally, elsewhere on the curial scorecard, the number of American undersecretaries at the Congregation level will double in short order. At least, it'll double briefly -- one, a curial vet, in; the other, a papal favorite, onward... and upward.