Saturday, July 04, 2009

Curial Chairs, Summer Edition

Sure, B16's social encyclical might be three days away... but beneath the top line of Caritas in Veritate, a good bit else is well in motion behind the Vatican walls.

This morning, the latest round of Curial chair-shifting continued with the outbound transfer of Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, #2 at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to the Italian border-diocese of Trieste.

Holder of the secretary's post since 2001, when he succeeded then-Bishop Diarmuid Martin (now archbishop of Dublin) on the Irishman's transfer to the UN mission in Geneva, no Vatican successor was named to replace the veteran social worker, who'll be one of four top prelates to lead the presentation of the new encylical on Tuesday morning in the Holy See Press Office.

Likewise today, the Pope named the vicar-general of Toledo, Msgr Juan Miguel Ferrer, as a "second under-secretary" at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. While the English Marist Fr Tony Ward already holds the #3 post at Culto Divino, the Spaniard's appointment is worth noting as it reunites Ferrer with his past and future boss, Cardinal Antonio CaƱizares -- the "Little Ratzinger" who took the reins of the global church's "liturgy office" late last year.

(Of course, the other top transition at CDW will be completed a week from today in Washington with the ordination of the office's new secretary, the Bronx-born Archbishop-elect Gus DiNoia OP, in the capital's the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.)

Today's twin moves follow yesterday's promotion of the longtime secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, Archbishop Francesco Monterisi, to the archpriest's post at the papal Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls. With that shift, the 75 year-old Italian is now placed in line to become a cardinal, keeping with the longstanding tradition for former seconds-in-command at the dicastery overseeing episcopal appointments for the global church's non-mission dioceses. Named to succeed Monterisi in the critical post was Archbishop Manuel Montiero de Castro, 71, who had served since 2000 as the papal nuncio to Madrid and, as a result, was the Holy See's lead voice to the Socialist government of Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose efforts to liberalize Spain's abortion laws and legalize same-sex marriage have met with ferocious criticism from the country's hierarchy.

Most of the already-announced moves were foreseen last week by the most reliable of the current Curia's court scribes, Il Giornale's Andrea Tornielli, who likewise lifted the veil on several other shifts supposedly at hand.

Among the yet-unannounced bunch are two that'd be of special interest to North Americans: according to Tornielli, the highly-regarded nuncio to Ottawa, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, is likely bound for the papal nunciature in Paris (whose occupants traditionally end up with the red hat) and, with the Secretariat of State's #3 official said to be in line for a return to the field, the post of Assessore is reportedly headed toward Msgr Peter Wells, a priest of Tulsa and the current head of Stato's English Desk.

The top aide to the all-important Sostituto -- the archbishop who, in essence, serves as the Roman Curia's "chief of staff" -- past Assessori have customarily gone on even higher: among others, both the current overseer of the Eastern churches Cardinal Leonardo Sandri and Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Naples once held the job, as did another American, then-Msgr James Harvey of Milwaukee, who John Paul II named to run his Household in 1998.

As the official responsible for arranging the pontiff's audiences and visits, the Midwesterner will return to his usual place in the San Damaso courtyard next Friday afternoon, this time to welcome President Obama to the Vatican and escort the visitor through the Apostolic Palace to the Papal Apartment.