Musical chairs in the Curia – some thoughts about the latest changes

There’s much to say about Pope Francis’ most recent Curia reshuffle, and a lot has already been said. But, whether you think the changes are good or bad, they are most certainly interesting.

Cardinal-BurkeThe most visible change is of course the transfer of Raymond Cardinal Burke from the Apostolic Signatura to the Order of Malta. Many see this as a demotion, and in a way that is understandable. As Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura his influence on what the Church does with marriage annulments and other difficult legal issues was great. Now he is the Patron of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, a body which offers medical and emergency aid to people all over the world, boasting about 20,000 medical personnel and 80,000 volunteers to make a major difference in disaster areas and for refugees and the sick. The Order retains a level of independence from the time when it was sovereign over Rhodes and later Malta. It has the status of Permanent Observer at the United Nations and issues its own passports. Cardinal Burke has become the Patron of this order and as such does not lead it (that is the duty of the Grand Master of the Order), but is responsible for the spiritual wellbeing and its relations with the Holy See.

There have been Patrons of the Order of Malta only since 1961, and all were cardinals who ended their career in the Church in this position. Cardinal Burke is 66, and many say that his career should be far from over, so this position seems hardly fitting for him. So has Pope Francis promoted Cardinal Burke away because he was an obstacle? The simple answer is that we don’t know, because neither the Pope nor the cardinal have made statements about it. Cardinal Burke did announce that his transfer was coming up (which is unusual in itself), but that is about as far as it goes. However, there are plenty of grounds to make assumptions, and many have done so. I don’t want to that, because, quite frankly, it doesn’t interest me to do so and I think that assumptions and gossip do more bad than good.

Cardinal Burke has been quite present in the media before, during and after the Synod, and he has been a consistent defender of the Catholic faith. It is sad that many don’t hear him because, in my opinion, his communication skills are less than optimal. Too often have there been statements which just begged to be misunderstood, such as when he said that there are faithful who feel as if the Church is sailing without a rudder. Many have seen this as outright criticism of Pope Francis, something that Cardinal Burke has denied. And a reading of his words support this, but that’s not what the audience hears. Subsequent corrections rarely reach their target. That has been a major problem for Cardinal Burke in recent months. It’s not that his words are wrong or his intentions are bad, on the contrary: he deserves to be heard, for what he says is valuable and wise. But communication is difficult, especially via the media. It is never objective, and people for images of people. Cardinal Burke, sadly, has generally become to be seen as a mean old traditionalist who hates mercy and doesn’t understand people. Fro what I gather from certain people who personally know the cardinal, that is far removed from the truth.

This, at least, gives a bit of a bad taste to his transfer, but it’s not all bad. When we heard from Cardinal Burke, it was rarely because of his function at the Signatura. And as Patron of the Order of Malta he is as free as ever to speak, explain and comment, even when his focus is on the charity work of the Order and the spiritual needs of its members.

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tn_giobbe_gifMuch has been made about the fact that Cardinal Burke is very young to be named Patron of the Order of Malta. But is that really true? When we look back at previous Patrons, we see that 66-year-old Cardinal Burke is only slightly on the young side. Below I list his predecessors since the position was created in 1961, and their age upon their appointment:

  • Cardinal Paolo Giobbe, Patron from 1961 to 1969, aged 81 (pictured at right)
  • Cardinal Giacomo Violardo, Patron from 1969 to 1978, aged 71
  • Cardinal Paul-Pierre Philippe, Patron from 1978 to 1984, aged 73
  • Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio, Patron from 1984 to 1993, aged 71
  • Cardinal Pio Laghi, Patron from 1993 to 2009, aged 71
  • Cardinal Paolo Sardi, patron from 2010 to 2014, aged 76

So yes, Cardinal Burke is the youngest Patron to date, but the difference in age between him and the three next youngest is only five years. And even when we look at the number of previous assignments and offices held, Cardinal Burke does not stand out. He has held six previous offices, which is more than Cardinals Sardi, Philippe and Violardo. Only Cardinals Laghi and Baggio have held significantly more positions before being made Patron of the Order of Malta.

So, according to the numbers, Cardinal Burke stands out only slightly when it comes to age. The patronage of the Order of Malta has a reputation as being an end station with little importance. The members of the Order will perhaps conclude otherwise, and there is always the example of Cardinal Baggio, who combined it with the office of Chamberlain of the Church…

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But the other two appointments that make up this round of Curia changes are also worth the attention as they raise their own questions and conclusions.

mambertiReplacing Cardinal Burke as Prefect of the Supreme tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (and also as President of the Supreme Court of the Vatican City State) is Archbishop Dominique Mamberti. The Morocco-born French archbishop is a career diplomat, which makes his new appointment somewhat unexpected. As a diplomat, Archbishop Mamberti was Apostolic Nuncio to the ‘difficult’ countries Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia before being called to Rome in 2006 to become the second man at the Secretariat of State, the Secretary for Relations with States, often described as the Vatican ‘foreign affairs minister’. In recent years he has been especially concerned with the plight of Christians and other persecuted minorities in the Middle East. Archbishop Mamberti is titular archbishop of Sagone, and may well be a future cardinal. What the experienced diplomat will bring to the ecclesiastical courts remains to be seen, but a wide outlook influenced by various cultures and societies across the globe seems to be one aspect.

gallagherIn the final act of this curial musical chairs, the new Secretary for the Relations with States comes from England by way of Australia. Archbishop Paul Gallagher is the first Anglophone foreign minister and although he is also fluent in Italian, French and Spanish, his being a native English speaker should be a boon to the international outlook of the Secretariat of State and the Holy See.

Archbishop Gallagher comes from Liverpool and was a priest of that archdiocese until joining the Holy See diplomatic service in 1984. He served in various countries, but his first posting as Apostolic Nuncio, to Burundi, saw him succeeding an assassinated predecessor and he himself was the target of a bombing in 2008. He escaped unscathed as he was abroad at the time. He was later Nuncio to Guatemala and most recently to Australia. He is the titular archbishop of Hodelm and will likely remain so, as the position of Secretary for the Relation with States is traditionally not a cardinalatial position.

Once again, these changes show that Pope Francis does not necessarily choose the obvious candidates for the post, but does attach much weight to diplomatic experience. We see that in the choice of Archbishops Mamberti and Gallagher, and even in the transfer of Cardinal Burke, which may well serve in giving him additional international experience.

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Just under the horizon – a look at the College before Francis’ first red hats

cardinalsIt would seem clear that one of these days (perhaps during tomorrow’s Angelus or Wednesday’s general audience) Pope Francis will announce who he intends to make cardinals in the consistory of 22 February. How many and who is anyone’s guess, but perhaps this is reason to take a look at how the College of Cardinals will change in 2014.

In order to max out the College at 120 electors, the Holy Father may appoint as many as 14 new cardinals or he may choose to appoint even more, as the upper limit established by Pope Paul VI is a flexible one (Pope John Paul II once made it as large as 135). The number of 14 is established by the fact that on the eve of the consistory there will be 106 electors. On 1 January, Raúl Cardinal Vela Chiriboga, emeritus Archbishop of Quito, turned 80. Below is the list of cardinals who will do likewise in 2014.

  • 30 January: Giovanni Cardinal Battista Re, most senior elector in precedence, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation of Bishops
  • 5 March: Jean-Baptiste Cardinal Pham Minh Man, Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • 14 March: Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi, Archbishop emeritus of Milan
  • 28 May: Francesco Cardinal Monterisi, Archpriest emeritus of the Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls
  • 8 August: Cláudio Cardinal Hummes, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Clergy and Archbishop emeritus of São Paulo, Brazil
  • 23 August: Carlos Cardinal Amigo Vallejo, Archbishop emeritus of Sevilla, Spain
  • 1 September: Paolo Cardinal Sardi, Patron of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta
  • 5 September: Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”
  • 23 September: Franc Cardinal Rode, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life and Archbishop emeritus of Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • 2 December: Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, Camerlengo of the Apostolic Chamber and retired Secretary of State
  • 20 December: Julius Riyadi Cardinal Darmaatmadja, Archbishop emeritus of Jakarta, Indonesia

That is a total of 11 cardinals who will age out of the group of electors, which may mean, depending on how many new cardinals will be created in February, a next consistory could take place in the spring or summer of 2015. Of these eleven, seven were created by Pope John Paul II and the remaining four by Pope Benedict XVI.

Enter the electors

Today, all the cardinals of the Church received the official letter summoning them to Rome. Cardinal Sodano, as dean of the College of Cardinals, signed the letter. Cardinal Simonis, emeritus archbishop of Utrecht, was one of the cardinals who received the summons, although, like many others, he is already in Rome. The image below shows the letter in the hands of the cardinal, who won’t  be able to vote in the conclave, as he is over the age of 80. But all cardinals, elector or not, are expected to take their responsibilities in managing the goods and needs of the Church and the faithful during the sede vacante, as well as preparing for the conclave.Cardinal Sodano’s letter invites the cardinals to the first two General Congregations on Monday. A date for the conclave may be decided upon then, but that is by no means certain. All indications are that the cardinals want time to talk and think.

letter sodano simonis

The electors number 117, although two of them have chosen to remain at home. So here they are, the 115 cardinal electors who will soon be entering the conclave, which they will not be leaving until they have elected a new Supreme Pontiff. As Emeritus Pope Benedict (how odd it is to write that!) said yesterday morning, the new Pope is among them.

electors

A short primer on who’s who among the electors, ordered by precedence (and from left to right and top to bottom, starting at top left and ending at bottom right, in the collage above):

  • Giovanni Cardinal Re, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops
  • Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State and Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church
  • Antonios Cardinal Naguib, Patriarch emeritus of Alexandria of the Copts
  • Béchara Cardinal Raï, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites
  • Godfried Cardinal Danneels, Archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels
  • Joachim Cardinal Meisner, Archbishop of Köln
  • Nicolás Cardinal López Rodríguez, Archbishop of Santo Domingo
  • Roger Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles
  • Jaime Cardinal Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana
  • Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, Archbishop emeritus of Montréal
  • Vinko Cardinal Puljic, Archbishop of Vrhbosna
  • Juan Cardinal Sandoval Íñiguez, Archbishop emeritus of Guadalajara
  • Antonio Cardinal Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid
  • Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi, Archbishop emeritus of Milan
  • Polycarp Cardinal Pengo, Archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam
  • Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna
  • Norberto Cardinal Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico
  • Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago
  • Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, President of the Congregation for Catholic Education
  • Crescenzio Cardinal Sepe, Archbishop of Naples
  • Walter Cardinal Kasper, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Ivan Cardinal Dias, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation fo the Evangelisation of Peoples
  • Geraldo Cardinal Agnelo, Archbishop emritus of São Salvador da Bahia
  • Audrys Cardinal Backis, Archbishop of Vilnius
  • Francisco Cardinal Errázuriz Ossa, Archbishop emritus of Santiago
  • Julio Cardinal Terrazas Sandoval, Archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra
  • Wilfrid Cardinal Napier, Archbishop of Durban
  • Oscar Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa
  • Juan Cardinal Cipriani Thorne, Archbishop of Lima
  • Cláudio Cardinal Hummes, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Clergy
  • Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires
  • José Cardinal Policarpo, Patriarch of Lisbon
  • Severino Cardinal Poletto, Archbishop of Turin
  • Karl Cardinal Lehmann, Bishop of Mainz
  • Angelo Cardinal Scola, Archbishop of Milan
  • Anthony Cardinal Okogie, Archbishop emeritus of Lagos
  • Gabriel Cardinal Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum
  • Carlos Cardinal Amigo Vallejo, Archbishop emeritus of Sevilla
  • Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia
  • Ennio Cardinal Antonelli, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Family
  • Peter Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
  • Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi
  • George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney
  • Josip Cardinal Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb
  • Jean-Baptiste Cardinal Pham Minh Man, Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City
  • Philippe Cardinal Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon
  • Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest
  • Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
  • Agostino Cardinal Vallini, Archpriest of St. John Lateran
  • Jorge Cardinal Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas
  • Jean-Pierre Cardinal Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux
  • Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
  • Seán Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston
  • Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz, Archbishop of Kraków
  • Carlo Cardinal Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna
  • Seán Cardinal Brady, Archbishop of Armagh
  • Lluís Cardinal Martínez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona
  • André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris
  • Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa
  • Théodore-Adrien Cardinal Sarr, Archbishop of Dakar
  • Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay
  • Francisco Cardinal Robles Ortega, Archbishop of Guadalajara
  • Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
  • Odilo Cardinal Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo
  • John Cardinal Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi
  • Raúl Cardinal Vela Chiriboga, Archbishop emeritus of Quito
  • Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa
  • Paolo Cardinal Romeo, Archbishop of Palermo
  • Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington
  • Raymundo Cardinal Assis, Archbishop of Aparecida
  • Kazimierz Cardinal Nycz, Archbishop of Warsaw
  • Albert Cardinal Patabendige Don, Archbishop of Colombo
  • Reinhard Cardinal Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising
  • George Cardinal Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars
  • Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
  • Dominik Cardinal Duka, Archbishop of Prague
  • Willem Cardinal Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Betori, Archbishop of Florence
  • Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York
  • Rainer Cardinal Woelki, Archbishop of Berlin
  • John Cardinal Tong Hon, Bishop of Hong Kong
  • Baselios Cardinal Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars
  • John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja
  • Jesús Cardinal Salazar Gómez, Archbishop of Bogotá
  • Luis Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila
  • Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue
  • Attilio Cardinal Nicora, President of the Financial Information Authority
  • William Cardinal Levada, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Franc Cardinal Rode,  Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
  • Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo, President emeritus of the Governorate of the Vatican City State
  • Paul Cardinal Cordes, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”
  • Angelo Cardinal Comastri, Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
  • Raffaele Cardinal Farina, Librarian emeritus of the Vatican Apostolic Library
  • Angelo Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints
  • Robert Cardinal Sarah, President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”
  • Francesco Cardinal Monterisi, Archpriest emeritus of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls
  • Raymond Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
  • Kurt Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • Paolo Cardinal Sardi, Partron of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta
  • Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy
  • Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, Pontifical Delegate for the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ
  • Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture
  • Fernando Cardinal Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples
  • Manuel Cardinal Monteiro de Castro, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary
  • Santos Cardinal Abril y Castelló, Archpriest of St. Mary Major
  • Antonio Cardinal Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, President of the Governorate of the Vatican City State
  • Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
  • João Cardinal Bráz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Edwin Cardinal O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
  • Domenico Cardinal Calcagno, President of the Adminstration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Versaldi, President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
  • James Cardinal Harvey, Archpriest of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls

Who we will see in white on the balcony of St. Peter’s sometime later this month remains anyone’s guess. Only Our Lord knows and, as Cardinal Pell said, it is up to the electors to find out.

Photo credit: [1] RKK.nl, [2] collage my own.