Pope Picks Nun Among New High Officials

Appointments are part of Francis' overhaul of the Vatican bureaucracy
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 23, 2022 4:50 PM CDT
Pope's Overhaul Includes Nun in High Office
Pope Francis attends an audience Saturday at the Pope Paul VI Hall at the Vatican.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis made major appointments in his newly overhauled Vatican bureaucracy Saturday, naming new deputies for the doctrine office and confirming the highest-ranked woman in the Holy See as the No. 2 in the development office. The appointments are some of the first since Francis last month issued his long-awaited overhaul of the Vatican Curia, or bureaucracy, which acts as the central government for the Catholic Church. Francis promoted Irish Monsignor John Kennedy to head the discipline section of the newly named Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles clergy sexual abuse cases, the AP reports. Kennedy said in 2019 that the office had seen a "tsunami" of cases from parts of the world that had previously not reported any.

Joining him as secretary in the parallel doctrine section of the dicastery is Italian Monsignor Armando Matteo, currently the undersecretary. The powerful department is headed by Cardinal Luis Ladaria, who at 78 could retire when his term expires in July. Francis also confirmed new leadership of the office for human development, which groups the Holy See's departments responsible for refugees, the environment, and charity as well as its COVID-19 response. Heading that office is Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny. His deputy is Italian Sister Alessandra Smerilli, an economist and the highest-ranked woman at the Vatican in her role as secretary of the dicastery. Smerilli has taken on increasing responsibilities in the past two years after helping steer the Holy See's response to the pandemic.

Both they and a third official confirmed Saturday, the Rev. Fabio Baggio, had been appointed on an interim basis after Francis removed key officials last year. After nine years of work, Francis issued his blueprint for the bureaucracy last month. For the first time it explicitly allows for laypeople—including women—to head Vatican dicasteries, imposes once-renewable five-year term limits on some officials and gives institutional weight to his advisory panel on clergy sexual abuse by incorporating it into the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. An official in the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Emer McCarthy, welcomed Kennedy’s appointment, tweeting Saturday: "It's a good day for #Safeguarding."

(More Pope Francis stories.)

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