Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Bull in the "Bishops Shop"

"He's a quintessential Australian," a friend of George Pell's once observed. "He loves to shock."

Over the years, the Sydney cardinal's launched his unique, prolific brand of broadside on environmentalists, Islam, and the ecclesial and political Left... to name but a few.

Yet soon, barring the unforeseen, a new target -- for "Big George," the biggest one yet -- appears set to present itself....

The Global Bench, all 5,000 members of it.

Sure, the formal word might've been absent from this morning's dispatches. Lest anyone wasn't banking it before, however, the bet's looking ever more like a winner -- early today, the leading Italian "court scribe," Il Giornale's Andrea Tornielli, blogged the following, here translated from the original:
In the last few days Benedict XVI again received in audience Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, making official his appointment as Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Pell subsequently had a long conversation with his predecessor, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re. The announcement of the move will be given over the coming weeks, but before the first of summer. Pell would be installed at the helm of the "bishop factory" for its return to full rhythm of its activity after the summer holidays. With the arrival of an Australian in the lead post of the key dicastery of the Roman Curia, that which deals which choosing bishops, Benedict XVI has completed one of the most important choices of his pontificate, one destined to shape the life of the global church for the next twenty years. It's true, in fact, that Pell isn't very young -- he'll be 70 years old in June 2011, and so has ahead of him no more than seven years -- but it's likewise true that the episcopal appointments that pass his sign-off before being placed before the pontiff will impact the life of the church for at least two decades. Papa Ratzinger yet again chooses from among the non-Italians for a key post of Curial governance, and from among the non-Italians who have no experience in the Curia (in the last 35 years, the Congregation for Bishops alternated between Italian and non-Italian heads -- from Baggio to Moreira Neves, from Gantin to Re -- but all had Curial experience). A choice certainly destined to renew and internationalize the Curia, and likewise to reinforce the hand of the Secretariat of State.
One shoe still to drop is notable: for nearly three decades, the Bishops' chief has done double-duty as head of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America -- Rome's south-of-the-border lookout post, founded in the heyday of liberation theology.

With the continent now claiming roughly half of the global church's billion-plus membership, but Pell's global experience largely limited to the Anglosphere, the future of the joint arrangement will bear watching over the weeks ahead... among other things.

On a related note, the Il Giornale scribe broke a significant story last week, revealing that B16 would soon create the first new dicastery in a quarter-century.

Reportedly the brainchild of Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice and with a mandate to reach out to the developed world, Tornielli wrote that the foreseen "Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization" would be headed by Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the politically-savvy yet recently-controversial president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The proffered Council would be the first top-rank Curial office instituted since the flow-chart's last major tweaking, John Paul II's Pastor Bonus revamp in 1988.

PHOTO: Getty