The fall of Cardinal Piacenza

piacenzaAmid the enthusiasm about Pope Francis and his first Psalm Sunday Mass, this little news item got snowed under, at least in my perception. La Stampa‘s Vatican Insider and APIC had reports today.

Concelebrating yesterday’s Mass with the Holy Father, among others, was Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. He was visible every now and then on he Vatican live feed up until the homily, but was conspicuously absent afterwards. Today we learned the reason for that: Cardinal Piacenza had suffered a cardiac arrest, had fallen, and was taken to the intensive care unit of the Roman Gemelli hospital. The good news is that Cardinal Piacenza is not in mortal danger, and never was, but the episode was alarming nonetheless.

Extra prayers for the good cardinal who, in the eyes of more than a few, has good chances of new and greater duties in the Curia under Pope Francis.

Photo credit: afp

Audiences, a glimpse of things to come?

Although the first weeks of a new Pope’s reign are undoubtedly not standard, there are duties which assert themselves fairly soon. Especially this year, the new Pope has had to devote himself to the duties of Holy Week, but there are also other duties related to the government of the Church which are being picked up again. One of these is the regular audiences with members of the Curia, and here we may keep a watchful eye for the future plans of Pope Francis regarding that same Curia.

cardinal-marc-ouelletIn the past few days, four curial prelates have met with Pope Francis: Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (and fellow Argentinean); Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Consecrated and Apostolic Life; and Cardinal Marc Ouellet (pictured), Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Of course, the fact that these cardinals were among the first to meet officially with the Holy Father may be the result of pure chance, but it may also indicate who Pope Francis wanted to speak with most urgently. Cardinal Cordes’ work for the Holy See’s charitable arm certainly fits with the Pope’s concern for the poor and Cardinal Bráz de Aviz could have been on the list because Pope Francis was himself a member of a religious order. Cardinal Sandri’s audience may in part have been held because of their shared nationality, but may also point towards the importance that the Holy Father attaches to the Churches of the East. Cardinal Ouellet’s visit, finally,  could be the most interesting.

Shortly after his election, Pope Francis spoke privately with Cardinal Ouellet, giving him, in the cardinal’s words, very concrete instructions. What these are have not been revealed. Could they indicate a new role for the Canadian cardinal within the Curia?

On the other hand, Cardinal Ouellet and Pope Francis may have simply been discussing the work of the Congregation for Bishops and upcoming appointments and transfers of new bishops.

Photo credit: PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images