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Top Vatican-watcher predicts key Vatican appointment is imminent November 21, 2008

A respected Vatican-watcher is predicting that the Vatican will soon announcement the appointment of a new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale writes that Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera of Toledo, Spain, will be named the new prefect sometime in early December. Tornielli offered this forecast after Cardinal Canizares met with Pope Benedict XVI in a private audience on November 20.

The appointment of Canizares to head the Vatican dicastery has been rumored for several months. The current prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Francis Arinze, is 76 years old-- more than a year beyond the normative retirement age. Cardinal Arinze will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination on November 23, Tornielli notes; the occasion could furnish an appropriate opportunity for colleagues to salute the Nigerian prelate for his 24 years of service at the Vatican.

Cardinal Canizares is regarded as a staunch ally of Pope Benedict XVI on liturgical matters. His appointment could clear the way for a second change: Tornielli predicts that early next year the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, will be given a new assignment as Archbishop of Colombo in his native Sri Lanka. Archbishop Ranjith is also seen as a strong papal ally, hand-picked by Benedict XVI for his current Vatican role. Rumors about his possible departure have raised concerns particularly among traditional Catholics, for whom he has shown considerable sympathy. The arrival of Cardinal Canizares could ease those concerns, paving the way for Archbishop Ranjith's return to his homeland. Tornielli speculates that the Sri Lankan cardinal-- who had been quite outspoken during his tenure in Rome, occasionally raising the hackles of other Vatican officials-- might also be named to the College of Cardinals in an indication of the Pope's support.

The Vatican has made no announcement about a change in leadership at the Congregation for Divine Worship. However, Tornielli's report has struck a chord because it fits neatly with rumors that have swirled for several months. Tornielli is acknowledged to have excellent sources within the Vatican. His reputation as a forecaster of appointments to the Roman Curia was strongly reinforced in July of this year, when he predicted that Cardinal Angelo Amato would soon be appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. That appointment was announced just a few days after Tornielli's prediction appeared in print.