Friday, November 03, 2006

Happy Birthday

For all the amped-up talk of American prelates nearing a certain milestone, the chattering circles have missed a big one.

Tomorrow, Cardinal Bernard Law -- no introduction needed -- marks his 75th birthday. Word is that quite the dinner party will be taking place at the canonry of St Mary Major's, where Law lives as the Roman basilica's archpriest.

In theory, turning 75 means that the onetime leader of the US hierarchy will have to present his resignation to Benedict XVI from the post overseeing the world's oldest church dedicated to the Mother of God. In reality, however, don't hold your breath.

It wasn't until three days ago that the pontiff retired Cardinal Francesco Marchisano as archpriest of St Peter's; Marchisano turned 77 in June. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who turned 75 in March, remains the papal vicar for Rome and archpriest of the Urb's cathedral, St John Lateran, and last year Benedict created an archpriest's post at St Paul's Outside the Walls, placing in it the veteran diplomat Andrea Cordero Lanza de Montezemolo, who was named a cardinal shortly thereafter.

At the time of his appointment to Rome's "newest" basilica (St Paul's was rebuilt following an 1823 fire), Montezemolo was already past his 80th birthday.

Nearing his 75th -- next July -- is another American in Rome, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, the former archbishop of Denver currently in gear as prefect of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the church tribunal that handles cases of the "internal forum." Stafford, who arrives in his hometown of Baltimore tomorrow night to serve as papal legate for the rededication celebrations, recently gave an interview on "The Power of Forgiveness in the Catholic Tradition" to the second edition of the reborn Catholic World.

Writing in Il Giornale on Wednesday, the paper's resident vaticanista, Andrea Tornielli, notes that episcopal appointments are soon in coming for Stafford's #2, Fr Gianfranco Girotti, and the prefect of the papal library, Fr Raffaele Farina. Tornielli also tips the 67 year-old bishop of Plock, Stanislaw Wojech Wielgus, as the Pope's choice to succeed Cardinal Jozef Glemp as archbishop of Warsaw.

With more internal changes on the way, it's said that Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the current sostituto of the Secretariat of State, is headed for the helm of the Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See; with the nuncio in Jordan, Archbishop Fernando Filondi, supposedly replacing him, or becoming the nuncio to Italy as -- in a notable predecent -- current nuncio to Rome Archbishop Paolo Romeo is given either the archdiocese of Palermo or Messina.

Given all that, it's enough to make your head spin.