Visitation at Vatican’s Liturgy Office Before Cardinal Sarah’s Successor Announced

Since Cardinal Sarah’s resignation was accepted in February, the question has been who might be chosen to replace the Guinean cardinal at the head of the liturgy congregation.

Pope Francis gave an address to the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican on Feb. 14, 2019.
Pope Francis gave an address to the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican on Feb. 14, 2019. (photo: Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY — An Italian bishop is carrying out a visitation at the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments less than a month after Cardinal Robert Sarah resigned as prefect.

According to media reports, Bishop Claudio Maniago of Castellaneta, president of the liturgy commission of the Italian bishops’ conference, began a visitation to the Vatican’s liturgy office March 15.

Bishop Maniago is also a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship, appointed in 2016.

Pope Francis accepted Cardinal Sarah’s resignation as prefect of the Divine Worship congregation Feb. 20. His successor to lead the office has not yet been named.

Information about Bishop Maniago’s visitation has not been made public, but the Italian newspaper La Stampa wrote March 16 that it had confirmed it was taking place and seen an internal email of the congregation announcing the visitation.

According to La Stampa, the March 12 email, from Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said: “The Holy Father has decided, before making appointments to the Congregation, that there should be a visit to the Dicastery by one of his representatives.”

The email reportedly further said that Bishop Maniago would be learning about the congregation's work and meeting with officials one by one.

“I have already expressed to the Holy Father our openness to this visit and our sure and sincere welcome to Msgr. Maniago,” Roche reportedly wrote.

“There is nothing to be alarmed about in this. As you know, this style of visit is now becoming a regular occurrence at the end of the mandate of the heads of the Dicastery or at the time of a significant change.”

La Stampa reported that internal consultations of the sort described in Archbishop Roche’s email did not take place, however, in the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples or the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which both received new prefects in recent years.

Since Cardinal Sarah’s resignation was accepted in February, the question has been who might be chosen to replace the Guinean cardinal at the head of the liturgy congregation.

CNA reported last month that Pope Francis could be looking at three possible candidates, one of which is Bishop Maniago, the bishop carrying out this month’s visitation.

In his role at the Italian bishops’ conference, Bishop Maniago, 62, oversaw the new Italian translation of the Roman Missal.

Another possible option for prefect is Archbishop Roche, currently the congregation's number two.

Before being appointed to his Vatican position in 2012, Archbishop Roche, 70, served as chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.

During the last eight years, the English archbishop has been a go-between for Pope Francis and Cardinal Sarah on liturgical issues.

Bishop Vittorio Viola of Tortona, Italy, is a third possible candidate. The 55-year-old is a member of the Order of Friars Minor.

His first appointment as a bishop, in 2014, was on the initiative of Pope Francis, who took him from a position as president of the Assisi-based branch of Caritas.

Bishop Viola was also formerly the Custodian of the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi. He got to know the pope during his 2013 visit to the city when they sat next to each other during a lunch with the poor.

Bishop Viola is also a good friend of Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi, who was secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship from 2003 to 2005.

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