Benedict's "School of Community": Venice's Scola to Milan
A prominent scholar of Islam and key member of B16's "kitchen cabinet," it's all but official that Europe's largest diocese will shortly go to the cardinal considered the Italian hierarchy's top intellectual heavyweight.
The move months in the making, the über-reliable Andrea Tornielli relayed earlier today that, at Roman Noon tomorrow, the Pope is set to name Cardinal Angelo Scola, the 69 year-old patriarch of Venice, as archbishop of Milan and head of its 5 million Catholics.
Named to the canal-side post in 2002 and elevated to the college of cardinals the following year, Scola (shown above with Benedict during the pontiff's trip to Venice last month) would become the second consecutive Milanese pastor to be transferred into the post from another Italian cardinalatial see; the prelate he's tipped to succeed, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, now 77, was the scarlet-clad archbishop of Genoa for four years before his own return to his hometown in 2002.
Its ecclesial roots dating to the 4th century, the Lombard capital is home to one of global Catholicism's five largest local churches, a top-shelf group rounded out by Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles and Madrid. And now, for the second time in a row, it's slated to be led by one of its own -- in this case, a native son of the city, but one who was denied priesthood there.
Reportedly turned away from Milan's seminaries due to his heavy involvement in Communion and Liberation -- the influential lay movement founded in the city (and, more recently, Joseph Ratzinger's movement of choice) -- Scola was ordained far to the south, in Abruzzo, in 1971. Early on, the scholar-cleric developed a close bond with the then-Professor Ratzinger and became a charter contributor to Communio, the theological journal founded by the theological power-trio of the now-Pope with Henri deLubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar, both of whom would likewise go on to receive the cardinal's red hat.
Another significant influence on Scola was the CL founder Msgr Luigi Giussani, who was memorably eulogized by then-Cardinal Ratzinger at his February 2005 funeral in Milan's cathedral, weeks before the preacher's election to Peter's chair. Both formative experiences were said to have come together in Scola's proposal to the Pope for a Vatican organ completely dedicated to the New Evangelization, which Benedict established a year ago this week and gathered for its first full meeting last month.
Scola's been a consultor to the CDF since 1986, five years before he was named a bishop.
Between them, the posts Scola leaves and enters produced no less than five 20th century Popes, totaling five of the last eight Roman pontiffs -- St Pius X, Bl John XXIII and John Paul I from Venice, Pius XI and Paul VI from Milan. Only in the last half-century, however, with the latter's exponential growth and emergence as Italy's hub of industry and population has the Lombard mega-see come to be viewed as the country's most prominent ecclesiastical outpost.
Accordingly, while Scola's name duly made the rounds among the Italian papabili prior to the 2005 Conclave, the cardinal's profile as a potential successor to his mentor would only skyrocket with the Milan appointment. Likewise, the reported move would open up another hotly-contested selection for the Venice post... and given recent history, that one would bear just as close watching -- after all, the successor named to Genoa on Tettamanzi's transfer to Milan was the then-secretary of the CDF, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, now B16's "Vice-Pope" as the pontiff's immensely influential Cardinal-Secretary of State.
All of 1,640 years since the acclamation of Ambrose by the Milanese as their choice to become the city's bishop, according to Tornielli, the installation of the saint's next successor is foreseen for late September.
SVILUPPO: As the Italian wires buzzed with word of a last-minute summons of Venice's civil authorities and press corps to the Patriarch's headquarters for an unspecified "extraordinary gathering" at midday Tuesday, the immensely high stakes of the Milan nod -- which nearly a century of Popes had traditionally reserved to themselves -- were duly underscored by the illustrious historian of the Council Alberto Melloni, who told Il Foglio's Paolo Rodari prior to Scola's emergence that....
Whoever gets picked [for Milan] will be the 'chosen one' of the Pope. Because it's evident that if Ratzinger welcomes the thoughts of his collaborators in the case of other dioceses, he decides Milan on his own. There's no more important appointment for a pontiff than Milan. The nomination is a highway to the papacy and, as such, is as decisive for the whole church as it is for the Ambrosian see. And this time, the feeling that Tettamanzi's successor could likewise know the end of an Achille Ratti (the future Pius XI) or a Giovanni Battista Montini (Paul VI) is great.PHOTOS: Getty(1,3,4)