Pope Francis is preparing to change the leadership of several important dioceses around the world. The moves, which he’s expected to begin rolling out in the coming days, are likely to give a huge boost to his unrelenting and long-term project to change the mentality and direction of the global Catholic Church.
It will give him a golden opportunity to replace men who have been less than exuberant about his attitude adjustment program and efforts at reform.
Cardinals Norberto Rivera Carrera (Mexico City) and Wilfrid Napier (Durban, South Africa); as well as Archbishops Peter Takeo Okada (Tokyo), Denis Hart (Melbourne) and Fausto Gabriel Trávez (Quito, Ecuador) are all seventy-five years or older and it seems the pope is already looking at candidates to succeed them.
Others who are eligible to retire, such as the Cardinals Donald Wuerl (Washington), Ricardo Ezzati Andrello SDB (Santiago de Chile), John Hon Tong (Hong Kong) and Laurent Monsengwo (Kinshasa, DRC) are likely to stay on for the time being as they have been seen as useful allies to the eighty-year-old pope.
The heads of several Vatican offices are also beyond the retirement age. They include Cardinals Beniamino Stella (Clergy), Angelo Amato (Causes of Saints), Francesco Coccopalmerio (Legislative Texts) and George Pell (Economy), as well Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri (Synod of Bishops). Saving any possible scandal, Francis does not seem in any hurry to replace them.
As far as the upcoming changes are concerned, first on the list appears to be the appointment of a new Archbishop of Milan. According to media reports, Francis has already decided on the man who will lead the Catholic community in Italy’s financial and fashion capital, which is also Europe’s largest diocese.
The current ordinary, Cardinal Angelo Scola, submitted his resignation to the pope last November when he turned seventy-five. And although heads of important dioceses, especially cardinals, are often left in post a few years beyond the canonical retirement age, Scola has made it known that it will not be so in his case.
The man who is believed to have been one of the leading vote-getters in the last conclave has already begun preparations to move out once his successor is formally announced. Italian media says that is likely to happen in the next several days.
Pope Francis and Cardinal Scola have had nothing warmer than a mere “cordial” relationship. They have very different visions concerning the nature of the Church and its role in society.
Some of this is due to the cardinal’s personal history. He was one of the first priests to be ordained in 1970 exclusively for service to the ecclesial lay movement, Comunione e Liberazione (CL). The movement’s founder, Fr. Luigi Giussani (d. 2005), assured this anomaly (in 1985 he founded clerical branch for CL) by making private agreements with the bishops who ordained the young men.
Scola made a fast and steady rise through the Church’s clerical ranks with the support of John Paul II and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. It was the latter, as Benedict XVI, who agreed to the cardinal’s request to be transferred in 2011 from the prestigious position of being Patriarch of Venice—as was St. Pius X, St. John XXIII and John Paul I—to head his native diocese of Milan.