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Vatican rumor: an American prelate in play?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 01, 2010

Cardinal Roger Mahony celebrated his 74th birthday on Saturday, and at his suggestion the Los Angeles archdiocese has already begun praying for his successor: a coadjutor archbishop whose appointment is expected in the near future. It will be a very important appointment, so naturally the rumor mills in Rome are working overtime, churning out the names of possible leaders for the largest archdiocese in the US.

One professional Vatican-watcher, Paolo Rodari, reports that he is hearing the name of Archbishop James Harvey mentioned frequently. As Rodari points out, it is extremely unlikely that Archbishop Harvey would be chosen for Los Angeles--and that's what makes the rumor so interesting.

A priest of the Milwaukee archdiocese, Archbishop Harvey worked for years in the Vatican Secretariat of State. Then in 1998 he was chosen by Pope John Paul II to become prefect of the pontifical household: a post he holds to this day. While that position puts him inside the apostolic palace, with direct access to the Pope, Archbishop Harvey has been a Vatican functionary for the past few decades rather than a hands-on pastor. He has no experience running an American diocese, and it seems far-fetched that he would be thrust immediately into the biggest American diocese of them all.

So why is his name in circulation? Rodari offers two likely possibilities, which are not mutually exclusive. Maybe some Vatican officials--the ones dropping his name--think Archbishop Harvey deserves his own (arch)diocesan assignment. And/or maybe they think that after 13 years at his present job, he's due for a change. Remember the name.

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