Pope Benedict XVI has today appointed Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Patriarch of Venice, as the new Archbishop of Milan – an important appointment often seen as a stepping stone to the papacy.
Born in Malgrate near Milan in 1941 and the son of a truck driver, Cardinal Scola is a respected intellect and former theology professor who was once rector of the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
He is close to Benedict XVI in his thinking, having been heavily influenced by the theologians Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac. Together with Joseph Ratzinger, he helped found the international theological periodical “Communio”, and is also closely associated with the Communion and Liberation movement, long esteemed by the Pope.
The Holy Father has a high regard for the cardinal who is reputed to have given him the idea to create the newly established Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
Partly for these reasons, Cardinal Scola remains the bookies’ favourite to become the next Pope, not least because a number of patriarchs of Venice and archbishops of Milan have gone on to become the Successor of Peter.
Pius IV, Pius XI and Paul VI led the archdiocese for the Milanese – the largest metropolitan diocese in Italy – while Pius X, John XXIII and John Paul I all shepherded the Venetians.
To have been in charge of both Sees, as Cardinal Scola will have been, might therefore make him a shoo-in for the See of Peter. But that, of course, as always depends on the Holy Spirit.
Cardinal Scola replaces Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi who, at 77, is stepping down on grounds of age. Now attention will turn to Venice and possible contenders for that key position in the Italian Church.