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A new approach to Vatican appointments?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Aug 28, 2014

Vatican journalist John Thavis makes an interesting observation about today’s news that Pope Francis has appointed Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, to become Archbishop of Valencia. That appointment, Thavis notes, “violated the age-old Roman Curia maxim, ‘You can’t go home again.’”

Cardinal Cañizares, a native of Valencia, is going back to the city where he was ordained to the priesthood in 1970. At the age of 68, he still should have years of active ministry remaining.

Can you think of another prelate who, after serving as prefect for a Vatican congregation, went back to head an archdiocese? I can’t. The 2nd- or 3rd-ranking prelate in a Vatican dicastery might be assigned to take over an archdiocese, but Thavis reminds us that a prefect—one of the heads of the most important offices of the Curia—generally remains in Rome at least until retirement, if not until death.

But Pope Francis is committed to changing the culture of the Vatican, and this appointment may be an indication of a different attitude toward curial appointments. Thavis writes:

I’ve argued that if Pope Francis really wants to emphasize service over prestige in Vatican appointments, he should make it clear that those called to Rome are there temporarily, with no guarantee of career advancement, and can expect to return home after their five-year term is over.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Aug. 29, 2014 7:25 PM ET USA

    Maybe the start of term limits.