Thursday, February 15, 2007

Pope to Curia: Interpret This

It looks as if the Curial tinkering has begun in earnest.

This morning, amid speculation that it'll be soon have a higher place on the Vatican flow-chart, the Pope reshuffled the leadership of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, accepting the resignation of its president, Cardinal Julián Herranz, naming the Spanish prelate's successor and those who will serve as his top two lieutenants.

Herranz, 76, was named president of the council in 1994 and elevated to the College of Cardinals in 2003. A priest of Opus Dei, he was the first member of the personal prelature to lead a Roman dicastery. Replacing him will be Auxiliary Bishop Francesco Coccopalmerio of Milan, who turns 69 in early March. A canon and civil lawyer who also picked up two degrees in theology along the way, he was elevated to the episcopacy in 1993 and has since served as the Italian episcopate's lead voice on legal issues and a national point-man on ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and the new movements. Since 2000, he's been the lone auxiliary bishop on the membership of the Apostolic Signatura, the church's highest court. With this morning's move, the new president also becomes an archbishop.

Reversing himself in the process, Benedict XVI simultaneously filled the council's vice-presidency, which had lain vacant for many years.

On 18 December, the Pope appointed the longtime secretary (and de facto #2) of Legislative Texts, Bishop Bruno Bertagna, as general auditor of the Apostolic Camera, the office whose prime function deals with the interregnum of the papacy. In today's announcement, not two months after his last transfer Bertagna was returned to the council, this time as vice-president. Seeming to show the papal hand on the question of the dicastery's future, Bertagna was also elevated to archiepiscopal rank, a peculiarity among second-in-command officials of the Curia's second level, although some were archbishops before arriving in their current postings and, thus, have maintained the title.

Filling the #3 office will be the pontiff's first prominent appointee from Opus Dei, Spanish Msgr Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru, 55, who's served since 2003 as head of the St Pius X Institute of Canon Law in Venice. As a consultor to the Congregation for the Clergy and the Councils for the Family and Legislative Texts, Arrieta is no stranger to Vatican life.

And amidst all the chaos, remaining as the council's under-secretary is one of the Roman scene's most popular and beloved Americans, Msgr Bernard Hebda of the diocese of Pittsburgh.