Pope Appoints, Confirms Members of Bishops’ Congregation

The latest reshuffle has Cardinal Donald Wuerl in and Cardinal Raymond Burke out, although some American observers said this move is not politically motivated.

St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica (photo: CNA)

WASHINGTON –- On Monday, Pope Francis made appointments to the Congregation for Bishops, confirming as its prefect Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a position he has held since 2010.

The Holy Father appointed Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington as a member of the congregation. Cardinal Wuerl currently serves on several pontifical councils, as well as committees of U.S. bishops. He also served as relator general for the October 2012 Vatican Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

The Congregation of Bishops is responsible for what pertains to the “establishment and provision of particular Churches and to the exercise of the episcopal office in the Latin Church,” primarily overseeing the process of selecting and appointing bishops.

At the same time, Pope Francis confirmed and appointed several other members of the congregation and confirmed its consultors.

The confirmed members were: Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone, Zenon Grocholewski, George Pell, Agostino Vallini, Antonio Cañizares Llovera, André Vingt-Trois, Jean-Louis Tauran, William Levada, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Leonardo Sandri, Giovanni Lajolo, Stanislaw Rylko, Francesco Monterisi, Santos Abril y Castelló, Giuseppe Bertello, and Giuseppe Versaldi, as well as Archbishops Claudio Maria Celli, José Octavio Ruiz Arenas and Zygmunt Zimowski.

Other members of the congregation appointed by Pope Francis include: Cardinals Francisco Robles Ortega, Ruben Salazar Gomez, Kurt Koch and João Braz de Aviz; as well as Archbishops Pietro Parolin, Beniamino Stella, Lorenzo Baldisseri, Vincent Nichols, Paolo Rabitti; and Bishop Felix Genn.

Neither Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia, 78; nor Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, 65, were confirmed as members of the congregation.

Despite speculation that Cardinal Burke was not confirmed for political reasons, Pennsylvania-based speaker and author Father John Trigilio said that this is not the case.

The cardinal “has contributed and continues to contribute a great deal to the Church universal and the Church in the United States,” explained Father Trigilio, who is president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy and a priest of the Harrisburg, Pa., Diocese.

Cardinal Burke remains prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the supreme tribunal of the Church, his primary position in the Roman Curia, one that is “even more influential and has more impact” than a seat on the Congregation for Bishops.

“That tells me that this is not a political shuffle, as it has been portrayed,” Father Trigilio said, adding that it is a mistake to “read between the lines” in search of a rebuke of Cardinal Burke.

“If the Pope had a lack of confidence in Cardinal Burke, he would have taken away all of his jobs and retired him.”

In addition to his prefecture, Cardinal Burke remains a member of the Congregations for Clergy, Divine Worship and the Causes of Saints.

Thomas Peters, an American blogger, noted that Cardinal Burke has been in Rome at the Signatura since 2008, adding, “If you asked me to pick who has a better working knowledge of the makeup, demands and expectations of the American episcopate right now, I would say the stateside Cardinal Wuerl … so from one aspect, this is a move towards efficiency.”