Pope Francis today made some sweeping changes to the membership of the Congregation for Bishops.
Although he re-confirmed Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet PSS as prefect of the Congregation (a position he has held since 2010), the Holy Father significantly altered the congregation’s membership, a body that shares advice on the appointments of bishops.
Most notably, Francis has chosen to replace 65 year-old Cardinal Raymond Burke as a member of the Congregation. Currently, the cardinal heads the Apostolic Signatura, the Church's equivalent of a 'supreme court.'
But as well as the American-born cardinal, the Pope also replaced Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, 69, currently head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, and Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, 70, president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. Along with Cardinal Burke, all three are well known for their orthodoxy and love for the Church's tradition, say observers.
In their stead, the Pope has chosen Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster. He has also brought in Cardinal Donald Wuerl, 73, of Washington, Cardinal João Braz de Avis, prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Society of Apostolic Life, and Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the new Secretary of State.
After today's announcement, the Congregation for Bishops, one of the most important Vatican dicasteries, is said by some Vatican observers to now reflect more closely the mind and heart of Francis than Benedict XVI. Cardinals Piacenza, Burke and Bagnasco were all Benedict appointments. Today's move is just the latest example of how Pope Francis is moulding the Roman Curia to suit his vision for the Holy See and the universal Church.