Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tomorrow: Hope, Munich and Media... All By Noon

The top line of tomorrow's Vatican News will be the release of Benedict XVI's second encyclical, Spe Salvi ("Saved By Hope"). The 65-pager's Roman Noon unveiling won't, however, be the only noteworthy drop of the day as the Pope takes care of two of the longest-held items in his personnel queue.

First, the Bavarian pontiff appears set to formally name Bishop Reinhard Marx of Trier as archbishop of Munich and Freising.

First reported on these pages yesterday, implied confirmation was given earlier today by Bishop Gerhard Muller of Regensburg before a media scrum. For his part, Marx (shown above in a Francis George moment) was more circumspect, telling a reporter in W├╝rzburg that "the Pope names bishops, not the press."

(Reality check: the Bavarian government -- whose pacts with the Holy See required its consent to the appointment -- had more to do with it than any arm of the media.)

The German media has gone into overdrive, with the national wire's headline blaring "Joy Over Marx." From Social Democratic politicians to Protestant clergymen, the air appears to be near-exuberant, with only the liberal reformist group "We Are Church" registering ill feeling toward Benedict's choice. Recalling Marx's 2003 suspension of a theologian who invited Protestants to the Eucharist, the activists used the occasion to issue a laundry list of demands for the presumptive appointee.

But that's not all.

After a record 36-month long holdup, the Pope is also expected to finally name a secretary for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, with the choice reported to have fallen on Msgr Paul Tighe, currently director of Public Affairs for the archdiocese of Dublin.

The choice of Tighe -- a moral theologian who studied in Rome -- correlates with prior indications seeking a native Anglophone to hold the #2 post in the Vatican office that interfaces with the worlds of entertainment and media. Precedent holds that the holder of the post is accordingly elevated to the episcopacy.

The new secretary will succeed Bishop Renato Boccardo, who was named Vatican City's "deputy mayor" by John Paul II in February 2005. Since that time, the council has moved into a new pontificate, a new presidency, and -- as of earlier this month -- new offices on the Via della Conciliazione, in the shadow of St Peter's.

In addition, burnishing longstanding buzz that the PCCS will take on an enhanced portfolio, the superior rank at the junior council is to be beefed up with the appointment of an adjunct secretary -- namely, Msgr Giuseppe Scotti, the veteran Milanese staffer in the Secretariat of State. As the whole of its top tier has arrived within the last five months, the Irishman will find himself in the middle of a fresh Italian sandwich.