Pope Francis Appoints New Catholic Bishop of Fatima

Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho was elected president of the Portuguese bishops’ conference in 2020.

Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho will now lead the Portuguese Diocese of Fatima.
Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho will now lead the Portuguese Diocese of Fatima. (photo: Santuário de Fátima. / Santuário de Fátima via CNA)

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal António Marto on Friday and named a new bishop of Leiria-Fátima.

The Pope appointed Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho to lead the Portuguese diocese containing one of the world’s most famous Marian shrines on Jan. 28.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. .  Kate Veik/CNA.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. | Kate Veik/CNA

Bishop Ornelas has led the Diocese of Setúbal, in southwestern Portugal, since 2015 and was elected president of the Portuguese bishops’ conference in 2020.

“José Ornelas brings with him enormous and unique wealth to give new impetus to the pastoral renewal of the Diocese and the Shrine of Fátima,” Cardinal Marto said in a video message after the appointment was announced.

“He is a bishop with ‘the smell of the sheep,’ with a close and affectionate relationship with God’s faithful people, laity, priests and members of the consecrated life, open to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue as well as to nonbelievers.”

Cardinal Marto said that he had submitted his resignation before he turns 75 on May 5 due to his “limitations of physical and mental strength to adequately exercise the office, given the pastoral demands of the diocese and the shrine of Fatima.”

Cardinal Antonio Marto makes the consecration prayer before the Virgin of Fatima in Portugal. .  Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima

Cardinal Antonio Marto makes the consecration prayer before the Virgin of Fatima in Portugal. | Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima via CNA

The Portuguese cardinal served as bishop of Fatima for almost 16 years. Pope John Paul II first made him a bishop in 2000, and Benedict XVI appointed him to lead the Leiria-Fátima Diocese in 2006. Pope Francis named him a cardinal in 2018.

Cardinal Marto will serve as the diocese’s apostolic administrator until Bishop Ornelas is installed in a Mass at the cathedral in Leiria on March 13.

Bishop Ornelas, 68, was born on the Portuguese island of Madeira, located 320 miles west of Morocco.

He entered the diocesan minor seminary at the age of 10. With dreams of becoming a missionary, he later entered the Missionary College of the Congregation of the Priests of the Heart of Jesus and continued his studies in mainland Portugal at the Missionary Institute in Coimbra.

In his early 20s, Bishop Ornelas spent two years as a missionary with the Sacred Heart congregation in Mozambique before returning to Lisbon to complete a theology degree at the Catholic University of Portugal.

Bishop Ornelas was ordained to the priesthood in 1981 at the age of 27. He holds a doctorate in biblical theology from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. 

He went on to serve as the superior general of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart from 2003 to 2015, until Pope Francis made him bishop of Setúbal.

Thousands of young Catholics are expected to travel to Portugal next year for World Youth Day, which will be held in Lisbon in August 2023.

Cardinal Marto said that Bishop Ornelas, as a missionary priest and a superior general, brings with him “an enriching vision and universal experience of the Church and the world in the diversity of the five continents.”

He said, “As bishop of Setúbal and president of the episcopal conference, he has given evidence of a pastoral experience allied to the missionary dynamism of a nearby and outgoing Church.” 

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Walking on Water,” ca. 1890

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