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New cardinal profile: Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli

January 22, 2015

Fifth on the list of new cardinals announced by Pope Francis on January 4 is Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli, 75, of Ancona-Osimo, Italy. Ancona is small city of 100,000 and the capital of the eastern Italian province of the same name.

During the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, almost all of Ancona’s bishops were named cardinals. The last archbishop of Ancona who was named a cardinal while governing the see was Cardinal Achille Manara, who died in 1906.

Born in 1939 in the eastern Italian town of San Severino Marche, Archbishop Menichelli attended local and regional seminaries and received a licentiate in pastoral theology from the Pontifical Lateran University. He was ordained a priest of what is now the Archdiocese of Camerino-San Severino Marche in 1965. During the three years that followed, he served as a parochial vicar while teaching religion in Italian state schools.

From 1968 to 1991, Father Menichelli was an official of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. From 1992 to 1994, he was assigned to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, where he served as secretary to the then-prefect, Cardinal Achille Silvestrini.

During his decades in Rome, he also assisted in family ministry at a Roman parish, served as chaplain at a hospital, and taught ethics to nurses at the Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic.

In 1994, St. John Paul II named him archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, and in 2004 named him archbishop of Ancona-Osimo.

In a 2008 pastoral letter on the Mass, Archbishop Menichelli discussed the significance of the Liturgy of the Word, called upon priests not to rush through the Mass and reflected on the importance of Corpus Christi processions.

In a 2009 pastoral letter on Eucharistic adoration, Archbishop Menichelli urged the faithful to kneel in silence before the tabernacle, cited the teaching of the Council of Trent on transubstantiation, and contrasted the worship of latria owed to God with the veneration offered to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the letter, he reflected upon the importance of sharing one’s bread with the poor and described divorce as a “social emergency.” In the Eucharist, he added, spouses would find the strength to counter the “individualistic selfishness” that leads to divorce.

In a 2010 pastoral letter on the Eucharist, he called upon priests to “be faithful to the liturgical text” and “respect the times of silence” and called for a “revival of Eucharistic adoration,” as well as lay participation in Lauds and Vespers. He also linked the liturgy to care for creation.

In 2014, in a short pastoral letter at the begin of the Synod of Bishops on the family, Archbishop Menichelli asked for the prayers of the faithful, requested that they remember their October Marian devotions, and called upon them to bring the joy of the Gospel to others.

During the synod-- the first in which he participated-- he was interviewed by Vatican Radio shortly after the release of the synod’s controversial midterm report. He said that bishops needed to listen more and added that the Gospel of the family needed to be presented in a new language. He also said that the Church, had not heeded St. John Paul II’ s call in his apostolic exhortation on the family to help youth engage in remote as well as proximate preparation for marriage.

During his synod intervention, he said, he reflected on “hardness of heart,” the phrase that Jesus used in reference to divorce. He added that for him, the question was not whether those who had remarried outside the Church should receive Communion, but whether there was a valid marriage in the first place.

He also emphasized the importance of pastoral accompaniment of those who had separated and divorced and said that he had met with a group of 80-90 separated and divorced people monthly for three years. “They know that the path of conversion is neither easy nor hasty,” he said.

Reflecting on the midterm report’s language on homosexuality, he said that every person is a gift from God and has gifts and talents to offer to others. “The problem is what these persons call a right does not correspond to the plan of God contained in the Bible.”

The social doctrine of the Church and the loneliness of contemporary culture are frequent themes of his homilies and writings, as are quotations from a variety of authors, from Cardinals Carlo Maria Martini and Joseph Ratzinger to Alessandro Manzoni and Charles Péguy.

In his Christmas 2014 homily, lamenting the loss of tenderness in contemporary family life, he recalled that his parents died when he was 11 and said that he was raised by older sisters. Decrying “unnatural” phenomena such as experimentation on human embryos, he said that a “Christian who is silent is useless in history.”

“Dear fathers and mothers,” he added, “despite the difficulties, in the inevitable marital crises, stay united at any cost and sacrifice; your children need it!”

 
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