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New head for top Vatican tribunal

Catholic World News - January 05, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed a new head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, one of the Vatican’s three top tribunals.

Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, who has been serving as secretary for the Congregation for Bishops, becomes the new Penitentiary Major. He succeeds Cardinal Fortunato Baldelli, who is retiring at the age of 76.

Archbishop Monteiro de Castro was born in Portugal in 1938 and ordained to the priesthood there in 1961. As a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps he served as apostolic nuncio to El Salvador, Honduras, South Africa, and Spain before his appointment in 2009 to the Congregation for Bishops. His appointment as Penitentiary Major makes him a likely candidate to receive a cardinal’s red hat at the next consistory, although his age (nearing 74) puts him close to the mandatory retirement age.

Cardinal Baldelli, the outgoing Penitentiary Major, also served for years in the Vatican diplomatic corps, with postings as apostolic nuncio in Angola, the Dominican Republic, Peru, and France prior to his appointment in June 2009 to head the Apostolic Penitentiary. He remained at that post, at the wish of Pope Benedict, for nearly 18 months after submitting his formal resignation.

The Apostolic Penitentiary is the Vatican tribunal with jurisdiction over matters involving the "internal forum"--the relationships involving matters of conscience between a penitent and confessor, or an individual and his spiritual director. The tribunal's competence also extends to the granting and use of indulgences. Because of the sensitivity of the issues handled by the Apostolic Penitentiary, the head of the tribunal-- known as the Major Penitentiary-- is the one member of the Roman Curia whose appointment does not lapse upon the death of the Roman Pontiff.

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