Tuesday, May 04, 2010

"The Wizard," Out of Oz

Building on the post below -- and, indeed, a trail of reports dating back some 14 months -- late word "running around" in Rome and relayed by a credible op says that Cardinal George Pell could be appointed prefect of the Congregation for Bishops sooner than expected, possibly even as soon as tomorrow.

To be clear, though, it bears repeating that, until the moment of an announcement, anything (and everything) can change.

For the record, the previously cited June timetable came some weeks back from a source in the Sydney cardinal's orbit. Earlier today, however, a leading Italian vaticanista -- Il Foglio's Paolo Rodari -- reported that the move "lacked only [its] announcement," revealing that following his aforementioned private audience with B16 on Friday (during which, according to Rodari's sourcing, a rollout date was set), Pell spent over an hour at the Congregation's offices meeting with the current prefect, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who reached the retirement age of 75 in early 2009.

Believed to have been a "campaign manager" behind Joseph Ratinzger's 2005 election to Peter's chair, the bold, bullish "Wizard of Oz" -- an Oxford D.Phil. whose 15 years at the helm of his homeland's two largest dioceses have firmly placed his colorful, conservative stamp on the Australian church -- wouldn't just bring the specter of history to the all-powerful dicastery overseeing the world's 5,000 bishops, but an almost diametric contrast of personality and style from the prelate he's tipped to succeed. For instance, while Re became a star of the diplomatic corps, beginning his rise under the patronage of the famous Giovanni Benelli, the leading progressive candidate at the conclaves of 1978, Pell was barely released from his first papal election before doing color commentary alongside Raymond Arroyo and Richard John Neuhaus on EWTN.

If it pans out -- and, notably, against the backdrop of a sex-abuse crisis largely driven by administrative acts of some English-speaking bishops -- the move would be without precedent, both for its naming of an English-speaker to the Bishops post, and the ascent of a second native Anglophone into the rarefied space of the Vatican's "Big Three" Curial chiefs. That said, a Pell pick would maintain this pontificate's well-established form on another front; roughly a majority of Benedict's chosen top lieutenants overseeing the global fold have been drawn not from the ranks of the Roman Curia, but the leadership of local churches -- an implicit check of what many ordinaries saw as an unfettered excess of the dicasteries' oversight role during the pontificate of John Paul II.

On a context note, no Australian has held a leading Curial chair since Cardinal Edward Cassidy retired as head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 2001. Still, despite never having served a day in a full-time Roman post, Pell's already well-used to flexing muscle at the Vatican: last week saw the culmination of his decade-long "wide" project as the new Roman Missal in English received the recognitio of the Holy See.

The cardinal had overseen the text's preparation as chairman of the blue-ribbon Vox Clara Committee, which consulted the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on the wholesale new translation of the Mass-book, soon to become the first vernacular text employed across the whole English-speaking world.