Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Benedict's Stamp on Wojtyla's Turf

Making the second major appointment to the church in Poland of his pontificate, this morning the Pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal Josef Glemp as archbishop of Warsaw, naming Bishop Stanislaw Wojciech Wielgus of Plock as his successor. (This scenario had been foreseen in the Italian press some weeks ago.)

Keeping with the thread of Benedict XVI's major diocesan appointments to date, the 67 year-old Wielgus (left, at podium) has devoted his life to the classroom. He spent three decades on the faculty of philosophy of the Catholic University of Lublin. Ordained bishop of Plock in 1999, he seemingly came to the attention of a German theologian with a knack for remembering people during two stints as a visiting scholar at the University of Munich, from 1973-75 and in 1978.

The head of the Polish episcopate's Science Committee, Wielgus also took a lead role in expressing the bishops' displeasure at the theatrical release of the Da Vinci Code, saying that the book and the movie "call for unequivocal rejection."

Cardinal Glemp, who turns 77 on 18 December, marked his 25th anniversary as archbishop of Warsaw and primate of Poland this summer. A close confidant of his predecessor, the "Primate of the Millennium" Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, he had been John Paul II's designated pointman on the guiding of the church in the late pontiff's native country through the tumultuous period of Solidarity, the fall of Polish Communism and what the Polish Pope saw as the rise of an amoral excess of the free-market philosophy in the life of the nation.

In 1992, John Paul altered the juridical structure of the Polish hierarchy. For five decades prior, the archdiocese of Warsaw shared its head with the archdiocese of Gniezno, the country's primatial see and home of the relics of its bishop-martyr, St Adalbert. A year after the country's transition to democracy, Wojtyla responded by creating a spate of new dioceses, at the same time severing the link of Gniezno and Warsaw, naming a proper archbishop to the former. Though he no longer held de iure claim to it, Glemp was permitted to retain the title "Primate of Poland" for the duration of his tenure as archbishop of Warsaw, at whose end it would return to the archbishop of Gniezno.

The sitting Pope, however, has tweaked those plans. In a 1 November letter to Glemp released with this morning's announcement, Benedict stipulated that, despite his retirement, the cardinal will remain primate until his 80th birthday, when the previously-stated restoration to Gniezno will take place.

In other appointments this Wednesday, the pontiff named Philadelphia's Dr John Haas as a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. A moral theologian and onetime Episcopal priest, Haas, 62, was the inaugural holder of the John Cardinal Krol Chair in Moral Theology at the city's St Charles Borromeo Seminary before taking the reins of what is now the National Catholic Bioethics Center, which he moved to Philadelphia from Boston in 2004.