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Spain's Cardinal Canizares to take top Vatican liturgical post December 09, 2008

Confirming a rumor that had circulated in Rome for months, Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera of Toledo, Spain, to become the new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Cardinal Canizares replaces Cardinal Francis Arinze, who is retiring. The retirement of the Nigerian cardinal, who had held the post of prefect since 2002, was announced on December 9: his 76th birthday.

Suggestions that Cardinal Canizares would be named to the Vatican's top liturgical post had arisen early in 2008. Because of Pope Benedict's keen interest in liturgical reform, and the intense and sometimes heated debates within the ranks of the Roman Curia on liturgical questions, the appointment has long been seen as a critical choice.

The appointment of Cardinal Canizares, who is regarded as a strong supporter of the Pope's plans for the liturgy, could clear the way for a second switch that has been the topic of much speculation among Vatican-watchers: the appointment of Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, the current secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, as Archbishop of Colombo in his native Sri Lanka. Archbishop Ranjith has been an outspoken advocate of liturgical reforms, and his appointment, hand-picked by the Pontiff for his current position. Tradition-minded officials within the Vatican had been loath to see Archbishop Ranjith transferred until another prelate with similar views was installed in the dicastery.

The appointment of Cardinal Canizares provides a boost to the credibility of Andrea Tornielli, the respected Vatican-watcher for the Italian daily Il Giornale. After the Spanish cardinal met with Pope Benedict on November 20, Tornielli predicted that Cardinal Canizares would be appointed prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and that the appointment would be announced early in December. Tornielli-- who has accurately predicted several other recent moves within the Roman Curia-- also predicted that Archbishop Ranjith will be moved to Sri Lanka sometime in the spring of 2009.

Cardinal Canizares, who is 63, was ordained to the priesthood in 1970. He became Bishop Avila, Spain, in 1992, then Archbishop of Granada in 1996. In 2002 he was appointed Archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain; he was raised to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

The Spanish cardinal has been a strong voice for Catholic social teaching during a period when the country's hierarchy has clashed frequently with the Socialist political leadership. He denounced the government's moves to liberalize abortion law and said that legal recognition of same-sex unions "gos against nature, family, and a healthy society." More recently he encouraged Catholic parents to "use all legitimate means in your power to defend your right to determine the moral education of your children.”