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Pope names new members of Council of Cardinals

March 07, 2023

Pope Francis has revamped the Council of Cardinals, naming five new members to his top advisory panel.

The most notable changes in the composition of the group will be the departure of Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who had chaired the Council since its inception, and the German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, another original member. Both have recently been involved in controversy. The most noteworthy addition is Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, who has also stirred up controversy with his call for a change in Church teaching on homosexuality.

Also significant is the fact that Pope Francis has chosen to replace the oldest members of the Council with younger prelates, and extended the group’s mandate. The Council was originally seen as a panel created to help with the work of reorganizing the administration of the Vatican. But with that work completed, Pope Francis obviously plans to continue relying on the Council for help.

The Vatican announced on March 7 that the new members of the Council will be Cardinals Hollerich of Luxembourg, Gerald Lacroix of Quebec, Juan José Omella Omella of Barcelona, and Sergio da Rocha of San Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.

Also joining the Council will be Cardinal Fernando Vergez Alzaga, the president of the Vatican city-state governorate. He replaces Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, who held the same post in the Vatican governorate until his retirement in 2021 at the age of 80.

New and outgoing members

Four members of the Council will remain in place: Cardinals Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State; Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa, Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, and Sean O’Malley of Boston. Bishop Marco Mellino will continue as secretary to the Council.

The new appointments bring the Council back up to nine members, thereby justifying its “C9” nickname. (The group had actually boasted ten members for a period of time, after Pope Francis added Cardinal Parolin to the original number.) Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz Ossa, one of the original C9 members, had resigned in 2018 at the age of 85. Another original member, the late Cardinal George Pell, also resigned in 2019, as he faced abuse charges for which he was eventually exonerated.

The replacement of Cardinal Maradiaga, who had chaired the Council, had been widely anticipated, not only because he recently celebrated his 80th birthday, but also because of persistent charges of financial misconduct. Cardinal Maradiaga had resigned his post as Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, earlier this year.

More surprising was the replacement of Cardinal Marx of Munich, who at the age of 69 is not close to retirement age. Cardinal Marx, who has been a leading proponent of the German bishops’ Synodal Path, retains a powerful Vatican appointment as coordinator of the Council for the Economy.

New tasks for the Council?

The Council of Cardinals was created by Pope Francis in 2013, “to assist the Holy Father in the governance of the universal Church.” The group’s primary task, in its first decade of existence, was to plan the reorganize the offices of the Roman Curia: a task that was completed with the release of the apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium last year. By extending the group’s mandate and renewing its membership, the Pontiff had indicated that he wants to continue receiving its advice.

At its most recent meeting, last December, the Council’s focus was on the preparation for the coming Synod on Synodality. The next meeting is now scheduled for April, with no major topic yet disclosed for the agenda.

 


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