2019: A look ahead

A new year, so a good time to look ahead to what 2019 may bring. The year will undoubtedly have its share of surprises, but there are always some things we can know for sure.

Among these is the inevitable progression of time, and thus the aging out of cardinals. In 2019, ten cardinals will celebrate their 80th birthday and so lose their right to participate in a conclave for the election of a new pope, as well as any duties they may have in the curia. The umber of cardinal-electors will drop from 124 to 114. Still a sufficient number, but Pope Francis has shown that he wants to keep the electors as close to their theoretical maximum of 120 (or over it, as the case is now), so a consistory may be in the books sometime towards the end of the year, or at the start of 2020.

The cardinals aging out are:

  • jrkruk_20130907_kard_stanislaw_dziwisz_wislica_img_3893b30 January: Alberto Cardinal Suárez Inda, archbishop emeritus of Morelia, Mexico
  • 11 March: Orlando Beltran Cardinal Quevedo, archbishop emeritus of Cotabato, Philippines
  • 8 April: Edwin Frederick Cardinal O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
  • 27 April: Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz, archbishop emeritus of Kraków, Poland (pictured at right)
  • 31 July: John Cardinal Tong Hon, bishop emeritus and apostolic administrator of Hong Kong, China
  • 16 August: Seán Baptist Cardinal Brady, archbishop emeritus of Armagh, Northern Ireland
  • 7 October: Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop emeritus of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • 11 October: Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Catholic Education
  • 14 October: Edoardo Cardinal Menichelli, archbishop emeritus of Ancona-Osimo, Italy
  • 15 October: Telesphore Placidus Cardinal Toppo, archbishop emeritus of Ranchi, India

Who may replace these cardinals among the electors is guesswork, as Pope Francis has never felt bound to pick his cardinals from the traditional places. Still, the list above could give some hints and we may assume that the Holy Father will choose cardinals for countries who no longer have any. That said, possible candidates could be Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Kraków, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa. Another source of new cardinals are the papal visits Pope Francis makes. He has made some of hosts cardinals in the past before. It may therefore be possible that we may see new cardinals from Panama, the Arabian peninsula, Morocco, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania (all confirmed visits), and perhaps Japan, Mozambique and Uganda (rumoured visits).

Closer to home, a number of dioceses will be looking forward to new bishops this year. In the Netherlands, the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam has just received a coadjutor bishop, although the sitting ordinary, Bishop Jos Punt, expects to remain in office until his 75th birthday in 2021. Health permitting, of course.

luc van looy gent - bisdom genrt_0In Belgium, Bishop Luc Van Looy of Ghent (pictured at left) has already had his retirement accepted. At 77, he completed a two-year extension to his mandate last year. He is to remain in office until the appointment and installation of his successor. Namur’s Bishop Remy Vancottem is, at 75, also past retirement age, so the southeastern diocese may see a new bishop before the year is out as well.

In Germany, Bishop Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg will turn 75 in June. Among the country’s auxiliary bishops, there is room in Freiburg im Breisgau where erstwhile auxiliary Bishop Michael Gerber was appointed to Fulda in December.

In the headline-making department, there is of course next month’s meeting of the heads of all the bishops’ conferences in Rome, to discuss a unified Church response to the abuse crisis. Among the participants will be Bishop Hans van den Hende for the Netherlands, Cardinal Jozef De Kesel for Belgium, Cardinal Reinhard Marx for Germany and Bishop Czeslaw Kozon for Scandinavia.

Currently gearing up in Panama, the World Youth Days will take place from 22 to 27 January. The first group of Dutch pilgrims have departed for the Central American country today, with more to follow. Among them will be Bishops Everard de Jong and Jan Hendriks. Bishop de Jong is again replacing Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, who has decided to stay at home as he is recovering from unplanned – and not further specified – surgery. Last year, Bishop Mutsaerts elected not to take part in the Synod assembly on youth and vocation in Rome. Bishop de Jong went in his stead.

cq5dam.thumbnail.cropped.750.422In October, the Synod of Bishops will gather again for a special assembly for the Pan-Amazonian region, to discuss the specific challenges for the Church there. The expectations are high, as many assume to what will be decided there, especially on the topic of married priests, will have global consequences. Participation in the special assembly is limited to bishops from the area, which means there is a minute Dutch link, at least when it comes to language, in the person of the bishop of Paramaribo, Msgr. Karel Choennie. Bishop Choennie is a member of the pre-synodal council preparing the special assembly in cooperation with Synod of Bishops’ general secretariat.

2019 will undoubtedly bring much to be discussed in (social) media, and there is still plenty being carried over from previous years. Keeping track of everything, let alone formulating thoughts and responses can sometimes be a challenge, but it’s probably a good idea to remember that not finding words or timely responses does not mean one does not care. There are many opinions, and many eloquent ones at that, to be found everywhere. And, perhaps more importantly, there are also answers to be found in the past. After all, what was true and good in the past remains true and good now. That is something to remember when we are confronted with questions and developments which seem to challenge our beliefs, understanding and even faith. We have a deposit of faith and exegesis to fall back on, and many of today’s questions and challenges are not new ones.

Photo credit: [1] Jarosław Roland Kruk / Wikipedia, licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0, [2] kerknet.be

Guessing at the future – what the new Curia may look like

cardinals curiaThere are persistent rumours that the reforms of the Roman Curia will soon enter a new phase as several councils will be merged into two congregations. And the preliminary steps for the new phase have already been taken in recent months.

Rumours are rumours, and we should be careful with them. We don’t know when and if changes will take place,nor do we know what they will look like. But we can guess…

Two recent personnel changes shed some light on possible future changes in the Curia. Cardinal Robert Sarah was moved from the presidency of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” to become Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and Bishop Mario Toso left his position as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to become bishop of Faenza-Modigliana. Neither prelate has yet been succeeded in their previous positions, and it may be that there will not be a successor. Both “Cor Unum” and Justice and Peace are rumoured to be merged into a larger Congregation for Justice and Peace, together with the Pontifical Councils for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers.

turksonCardinal Sarah and Bishop Toso have been reassigned, but that leaves several other prelates without a clear place to go. For now at least. Candidates for the position of Prefect of the new congregation would, in my opinion, be Cardinal Peter Turkson (pictured), who now heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, or possibly Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, who is now the president of the Health Care council. Both are about the same age (Turkson is 66, Zimowski 65) and about the same number of years in the Curia behind them. The other option for both of them is a return to their native country, something that Pope Francis seems to prefer. In Ghana, Cardinal Turkson’s native country, the only vaguely likely option is a return to the Archdiocese of Cape Coast, where he was archbishop from 1992 to 2009. Cape Coast’s current Archbishop, Matthias Nketsiah, turns 75 in 2017. Not a very likely prospect, in my opinion.

zygmunt_zimowskiIn Poland, where Archbishop Zimowski (pictured) comes from, there is the enticing option of Kraków, which should become vacant very soon. Cardinal Dziwisz, the current archbishop there, turns 76 in April. Solely judging from these options, Cardinal Turkson would seem to be more likely to remain in Rome and head a new Congregation for Justice and Peace.

The third cardinal involved, Antonio Maria Vegliò, president of the Council for Migrants, is already 75, and should retire fairly soon. The various secretaries and undersecretaries of the Councils that are set to merge into the new Congregation will either continue their work or be given new assignments in Rome or in the countries they are from. The most senior of these is Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care for Migrants. His dicastery serves a role that is close to Pope Francis’ heart, so perhaps we can see him as secretary under Cardinal Turkson?

A second new Congregation that is said to be created is that of Laity and Family, composed of the current Pontifical Councils of the Laity and of the Family, and the Pontifical Academy for Life.

rylkoAgain, there are two most likely candidates to head this new congregation: Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko (pictured), President of the Council for the Laity for the past twelve years; and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Family Council. Again both are the same age (69), but Cardinal Rylko has far more Curia experience (12 as opposed to 3 years). Should Cardinal Rylko be appointed to his native Poland, there really is no other place for him to go than Kraków, and we already have the option of Archbishop Zimowski going there. Two other Polish archdiocese which will fall vacant within the next few years, Warmia and Przemysl, really don’t have the stature and history for an experienced Curial cardinal. Then again, nothing is set in stone in these matters.

The rumoured merger of the Pontifical Council for the Laity into a Congregation for Laity and Family opens another interesting possibility: that the current secretary of the Laity Council, Bishop Josef Clemens, returns to his native Germany, to one of the vacant dioceses there. As we know, Limburg, Hamburg and Berlin are still vacant, and we don’t know who’s on the list for any of them.

The president of the Academy for Life, lastly, Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, is 77 and will likely be allowed to retire without playing a role in a new Congregation.

Just some educated guesses. Reality, as ever, may well turn out radically different.

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.

Country by country – a new nuncio for the north

After almost six months, the Nordic countries are once again supplied with an official ambassador from the Holy See. This new Apostolic Nuncio is Archbishop Henryk Józef Nowacki, until today the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua.

Appointed today to Sweden and Iceland – Denmark, Norway and Finland will almost certainly follow in due course – 65-year-old Archbishop Nowacki is of German descent and was ordained a priest for the Polish Diocese of Tarnów in 1970. In 1983, he began to work in the Holy See’s diplomatic service in Paraguay and Angola, and later at the Secretariat of State in Rome. In 2001, he became the Nuncio to Slovakia and was given the titular see of Blera near Rome. He was consecrated by Blessed Pope John Paul II. In 2007, he was appointed to Nicaragua, and today his third posting followed.

Archbishop Nowacki came under fire in 2007 when he was identified as a Communist collaborator in the 1970s. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of Kraków, came strongly to his defence, but nothing more seems to have come from the affair. Both Dziwisz and Blessed John Paul II seemed to consider or have considered Archbishop Nowacki an industrious and loyal collaborator and friend. This latest appointment certainly does not seem to indicate a change in that opinion from the part of Pope Benedict XVI.

Photo credit: Ján Duda

Pictures say more

… than a thousands words, they say. So with that in mind I won’t add many words to the reports of yesterday’s beatification of Blessed Pope John Paul II. Instead, here are 20 photos which I liked:

[But if there is need of words, here is my translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s homily.]

Thousands of pilgrims gather on St. Peter's Square and the streets leading to it.
The glass reliquary shaped like intertwining olive branches and containing a vial of blood of the new blessed.
Another view of the crowds on the square
Some of the many priests attending the Mass in choir, with the statue of St. Peter in the foreground
The crowds don't all fit within the borders of the world's smallest state
Pope Benedict XVI greets President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland at the end of the ceremonies.
Pope Benedict XVI prays in front of the coffin of Blessed John Paul II
Pope Benedict XVI kisses the reliquary containing a relic of the new blessed
Four photos of the revealing of the photo of Blessed John Paul II, overlooking St. Peter's Square
Young pilgrims from Germany
Sister Tobiana, who took care of Blessed John Paul II in the final days of his life, touches his coffin
Watching from the Circus Maximus, a Polish pilgrim cries during the beatification
With Polish flags and banners behind him, Pope Benedict XVI arrives just before Mass
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, for many years the personal secretary of Blessed John Paul II
Sister Marie Simone-Pierre, whose miraculous cure from Parkinson's paved the way to the beatification
Deo gratias!
In the early hours of the morning, many pilgrims are still dozing
Throughout the night before the beatification, as thousands and pilgrims prayed and kept watch, a candle burned in the window of Pope Benedict XVI's apartments
A religious sister peers from underneath one of the many pictures of Blessed John Paul II present on the square
Pope Benedict XVI faces his predecessor in pictorial form

Photo credits:
[1] Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images
[2] [4] Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
[3] [10] [11] [16] Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images
[5] AP Photo/Massimo Sestini, Polizia di Stato
[6] Pool L’Osservatore Romano Vatican-Pool/Getty Images
[7] REUTERS/Ettore Ferrari/Pool
[8] AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano
[9] [12] Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images
[13] REUTERS/Max Rossi
[14] Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images
[15] [20] AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito
[17] [18] AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
[19] AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca

In Rome: The right-hand man

This is the second installment of a series of who’s who in the Vatican, a series that will very likely appear quite irregularly. In it, I take a look at the men – and women – in Rome, who work to guide and shepherd the Church all over the world.

When the pope is working, which is during most of his daytime hours, one man is there to make sure the Holy Father has all he needs to shepherd the Church through her day-to-day affairs, from correspondence to speeches, lectures and his reading glasses. He is Msgr. Georg Gänswein, the personal secretary of the pope.

He was born in 1956 in the village of Riedern am Wald, in the far south of Germany, not too far from the Swiss border. In 1984 he was ordained a priest and he became a Doctor in Canon Law in 1993. Three years later, Cardinal Ratzinger invited Msgr. Gänswein to become an official of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Then things developed fast. In 2000 he became a Chaplain of His Holiness and in 2003 he replaced Bishop Josef Clemens as Cardinal Ratzinger’s secretary. A year after the cardinal became Pope Benedict XVI, Msgr. Gänswein was appointed as his personal secretary.

Georg Gänswein is rather popular in Rome, where he has earned the nicknames ‘Padre Georg’ and even ‘Bel Giorgio’ for his looks. Media reports of the pope’s first visits  abroad usually never failed to notice the new man where the elderly Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz used to sit. The changes in apparel that became visible during the initial years of Benedict’s papacy have often been considered to be the influence of Msgr. Gänswein: Prada shoes (or rather what were assumed to be Prada), but also chasubles, mitres and other liturgical clothing. In how far Msgr. Gänswein is truly responsible for this renewed focus on traditional appearance (as opposed to, say, Msgr. Guido Marini) is up for debate, of course. The papal secretary is very much an assistant to the pope, not a man to pursue his own agenda. It is not his place to advocate change in whatever area. Pope Benedict XVI can do that very well himself.

During normal working days, the pope and his secretary usually have breakfast together and take an after-lunch stroll to the Vatican gardens. Msgr. Gänswein makes sure the pope gets to see the correspondence and other paperwork he needs to see or sign, and also schedules upcoming appointments and audiences.

Georg Gänswein is a man to be noticed, certainly because he is part of the small household staff of the pope. He is said to be a very intelligent and analytical thinker (something of a given when one works closely with this pope), but also a tennis player, skier and football player, and he even has his pilot’s license. Msgr. Gänswein is instrumental in the day-to-day affairs of the Catholic Church, certainly when it comes to the affairs of the visible head of that Church, Pope Benedict XVI.