VATICAN CITY — The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis has nominated Maltese Bishop Mario Grech pro-secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops to work alongside Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri.
In a declaration to journalists Oct. 2, Cardinal Balidisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops since 2013, said the pro-secretary-general will “walk alongside” him in his role and participate in this month’s Amazon synod as a member.
Cardinal Baldisseri said Bishop Grech will then assume the full position of secretary-general at the time his own mandate “expires,” though there was no indication of when that will be.
Cardinal Baldisseri, who turned 79 last month, has led the two synods on the family in 2014 and 2015 and the youth synod held in October 2018.
Bishop Grech, 62, has been bishop of the Maltese Diocese of Gozo since January 2005. He will remain apostolic administrator of the diocese until Pope Francis appoints a new bishop.
Born in Qala, Malta, Bishop Grech was ordained a priest in 1984 at the age of 27 for the Diocese of Gozo.
Bishop Grech was one of two authors of the Maltese bishops’ controversial pastoral guidelines on Amoris Laetitia, which stated divorced-and-remarried Catholics, in certain cases and after “honest discernment,” could receive Communion.
Bishop Grech was also one of two Maltese bishops to speak out against divorce and in defense of the Christian view of marriage in 2010.
Cardinal Baldisseri was born in 1940 in the Italian town of Barga, and in 1963, he was ordained a priest at 22 years old for the Archdiocese of Pisa.
He holds a license in dogmatic theology, a doctorate in canon law and is a pianist who studied at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music under the late Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci. From 1971 to 1973 he studied at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy to become a Vatican diplomat.
Cardinal Baldisseri served in numerous nunciatures, including those to Guatemala, El Salvador, Japan, Brazil, Paraguay, France, Zimbabwe and Haiti.
In 1992 he was consecrated a bishop and appointed apostolic nuncio to Haiti, which had just experienced a coup. He subsequently served as apostolic nuncio to Paraguay, India, Nepal and Brazil.
In Brazil, Cardinal Baldisseri achieved an agreement regulating the juridical status of the Church in the country and which is now a model for every religion wishing to forge an agreement with the Brazilian state. In reaching the agreement, Cardinal Baldisseri had to coordinate with 11 different ministries of the Brazilian administration.
After the achievement of the agreement, Benedict XVI appointed him in 2012 as secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, as well as secretary of the College of Cardinals.