Thursday, March 08, 2007

The new head of the CEI

Sandro Magister talks about the new head of the CEI (Italian bishops conference), Angelo Bagnasco, the recently appointed Archbishop of Genoa.

He has been archbishop of Genoa for a few months, but Benedict XVI also wanted him to be president of the bishops’ conference. He succeeds Ruini, to whom he is extremely loyal. His appointment is the confirmation of a project for a victorious Church

Further into the article:

Ruini’s reign at the CEI has lasted for twenty-one years – five as secretary, and sixteen as president. And now, his reign becomes a dynasty. Bagnasco, the heir, has sharp features and a sharp way of speaking like him, and like him he loves philosophy and has taught it for years, but above all he has an identical vision of the Church in Italy and in the world.

This is also the same “mission” that Benedict XVI handed down to the representatives of the Italian Church gathered in Verona last October: “to restore full citizenship to the Christian faith,” “to make visible the great ‘yes’ that God speaks to man and to life.”

It was Benedict XVI in person who installed the new president of the CEI. In all other countries, that appointment is decided by a vote among the bishops, but in Italy it falls to the pope.

The circumstances of the appointment as noted here are interesting in light of the little tussle noted before by Magister only a few weeks ago:

With Bagnasco as president, but not the pope’s vicar as before, the CEI exits its exceptional phase as personified by Ruini, and returns to normalcy. Very soon, perhaps in June, Bagnasco will be made cardinal, but he will in any case remain in Genoa as archbishop. His relationship with the pope will be less symbiotic, and Italian politics will no longer be focused solely on what the CEI says and does, but also on the Vatican secretariat of state. This, curiously, is now directed by Bagnasco’s predecessor in Genoa, cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Bertone would have preferred for the CEI to have a less prominent president. He had tried to convince Benedict XVI to opt for the bishop of a moderately important diocese, and his candidate was Benigno Papa, of Taranto. He didn’t succeed.

But another longstanding hypothesis also fell by the wayside: that cardinal Angelo Scola, patriarch of Venice, would rise to the presidency of the CEI. Bertone’s “maneuver” was interpreted as hostile toward Ruini. But the conclusion refutes this: Bagnasco is a staunch follower of Ruini, more so than Scola, and his appointment was, in the end, recommended to the pope by Bertone himself. It was an epilogue that would have been difficult to imagine even a few months ago. Bagnasco’s name didn’t even appear in the survey conducted one year ago among the Italian bishops by then-secretary of state Angelo Sodano and by the nuncio to Italy, Paolo Romeo, in order to ascertain whom they would like as Ruini’s successor.

Towards the end, there is more of Archbishop Bagnasco's biography. This snippet is interesting:

In 2003, he was promoted as ordinary military archbishop for Italy, and there isn’t a corner of the world so far-flung that he won’t visit it to meet with Italian soldiers on “peacekeeping missions.”

In a letter to military chaplains, he writes: “Many times we are surprised to find treasures of goodness, moral uprightness, and simple heroism in seemingly impossible situations.”

It is pretty clear that Magister views Archbishop Bagnasco as a worthy successor to Cardinal Ruini, someone who is much the same mold as the Vicar of Rome. Seeing his credentials laid out here, they are quite impressive. I doubt that anyone can keep truly succeed in following Ruini (much as everyone thought that anyone could follow up JPII), but the archbishop's career points to a pastoral awareness that will serve him well.

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