Saturday, November 19, 2005

The First Curial Casualty

Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, is out.

Within the last 15 minutes, it was announced that Benedict XVI has named Sorrentino -- a theologian and political scientist who spent the 1990s in the Secretariat of State and has served since 2003 as the Vatican's number-two liturgy official -- to head the Umbrian diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino.

Given the liturgical focus expressed throughout the canon of Joseph Ratzinger's work, and with a Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist just completed, it's to be expected that Sorrentino's succession at Divine Worship will be interpreted as the Pope's indicator of how battles over translations, rubrical enforcement and the "pastoral flexibility" sought by the episcopal conferences will be handled by the Holy See in the new pontificate.

Benedict also released his third Motu proprio (on his own initiative) letter this morning, providing a relevant backdrop to this day's top story. Running along the lines of his first letter of this kind -- a May missive which dealt with the administration of the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls -- today's document dealt with the administration and governance of the Basilicas of Assisi: the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Francis and the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (where the Portiuncula is kept in the center of the church). The new guidelines strengthen the hand of the new bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra and weaken the seeming monopoly of the Franciscans who staff the churches. The letter also provides for the appointment of a cardinal as archpriest of the Assisi basilicas; no name was given today, however.

It's been a busy Saturday at the Vatican. The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was received by the Pope in an audience which lasted 34 minutes -- "a real record from the new Pope," who, as one wire report put it, "is generally quite brief in occasions of this kind."

Kiko Arg├╝ello, head of the Neocatechumenal Way, also paid a courtesy call on the Holy Father this morning. Cardinal Re was received this afternoon, a sheaf of appointments in hand.

Finally, in other matters of papal writing, it is confirmed that the first Encyclical Letter, to be released December 8, will be called Deus Caritas Est -- "God is Love." Initial feed is that it is simply stunning....