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Back in April, so several sources claim, Pope Francis put at least a temporary stop to the granting of the honorary title of Monsignor or, more accurately, the titles of Honorary Prelate of His Holiness and Chaplain of His Holiness. Both titles grant the use of the title ‘monsignor’ to whom it is bestowed. It is a honorific, granted upon the request of a priest’s bishop or by papal initiative to priests who have done some extraordinary service that would merit this recognition. In practice, and in some areas, the titles have also een given almost automatically to priests who reached a certain age or number of years in one position or function.
Bishops also use the title of monsignor, but this comes with their consecration as bishops and is therefore not an honorary title.
It is said that Pope Francis wants to await the first meeting of the college of eight cardinals that he has appointed to advise him in reforming the Curia, before possibly restoring the practice. Or not, as the case may be. The cardinals Bertello, Errázuriz Ossa, Monsengwo Pasinya, Gracias, O’Malley, Marx, Pell and Rodríguez Maradiaga will meet next month.
Six months into this pontificate, it should come as no surprise that Pope Francis’ priorities do not lie with the granting of honours and titles. Of course, he has appointed bishops and archbishops, but that is quite different, flowing from the need of a diocese for a shepherd. What this means for Francis’ first consistory seems clear: don’t hold your breath. While there are a number of clear candidates to be created cardinal – among them the new Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, to name but one – they will be kept waiting a while longer, I would think.
And why not, after all? With 111 electors there is no shortage of cardinals who can participate in a conclave, and we have no reason to assume one is forthcoming (then again, this time last year we thought much the same…). Metropolitan archbishops can do their jobs just as well without being cardinals, and the same would go for prefects and presidents of the offices of the Curia. However, the College of Cardinals can be a valuable aid in running the Church, and Pope Francis will very likely be using it as such. In fact, with the title of cardinals comes the responsibility to function as such. The Pope can call consistories to assemble the entire college to deliberate, advise and decide about any given topic. And before long, I would think, Pope Francis may want to have the Secretary of State, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, to name three Curial officials who are not yet cardinals, in that College.
And we’re up for another round of curial changes, as prelates retire from their offices and are replaced by new names. While many Vaticanistas are eagerly awaiting the appointment of a new prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (currently headed by 76-year-old Cardinal Levada) and even a new Secretary of State (Cardinal Bertone, the incumbent, is now 77), today we see a number of appointments which may not be as high-profile, but no less important.
Arguably the third-most important Congregation, that of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, sees a switch in secretaries. American Archbishop Joseph Di Noia is leaving to become vice-president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, directly assisting Cardinal Levada. Succeeding him at Divine Worship is English Bishop Arthur Roche (pictured at left), formerly of Leeds, who will be made an archbishop.
In the Congregation for Catholic Education, we note the departure of Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès. He had been that Congregation’s secretary since 2007, and will now take up duties as the archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives and librarian of the Vatican Apostolic Library. His predecessor, Cardinal Farina, had resigned for age reasons earlier this month.
In the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Archbishop Piergiuseppe Vacchelli resigns as adjunct secretary. Succeeding him as the congregation’s third man, is Archbishop Protase Rugambwa (pictured, right), until today the ordinary of the Tanzanian Diocese of Kigoma.
Then, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli resigns as President of the Pontifical Council of the Family. He held the office since 2008. His successor is Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, until today bishop of the Italian Diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia. With the office comes the personal title of archbishop.
In the Apostolic Penitentiary, one of the three tribunals of the Church, there is a new regent to succeed Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, who held the office since 2002. The new regent is Msgr. Krzysztof Nykiel, a Polish curial official.
In many ways, the Curia of the Catholic Church can be seen as a government, with ministries and secretaries. They are not only responsible for the daily affairs of the Church as institution, but also for essentially everything that has to do with the life of the Church and all her faithful. They give hand and feet to the Church’s eternal task of communicating and guarding the faith that has been given us. It is good for us Catholics to have a passing familiarity with the Curia.
The question now is… what will the coming weeks bring?
Two days ago, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Pontifical Council for the Family, who are currently in their 19th Plenary Assembly. Read the text of the address here, courtesy of Zenit. Here is the Dutch translation.
It’s not a deeply theological discourse or anything like that, but it does contain a few thoughts on marriage, family and the education of children. It’s some basic Catholic thought on the matter, explained through references to Pope John Paul II’s exhortation Familaris Consortio from 1981.