Pope appoints new leader of Italian bishops

Pope appoints new leader of Italian bishops

The predictions were right: Pope Benedict has chosen Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa as the new president of the Italian bishops’ conference, replacing the retiring Cardinal Camillo Ruini. While it may seem distant news to most Americans, the run-up to this decision was among the most contentious of Pope Benedict’s pontificate so far, and may even have hastened the departure of former Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

Ruini finished his 3rd five-year term last year and Pope Benedict chose to put off naming a successor immediately to avoid the upheaval right before the Italian nation elections. He remains the Pope’s vicar for Rome, essentially running the diocese in the Pope’s name while the Holy Father takes on the larger responsibilities of the Universal Church.

Bagnasco is an interesting choice. He only became archbishop of Genoa last year when his predecessor, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was named Secretary of State. Before that he was Bishop of Pesaro and then chief of Italy’s military chaplains.

While Ruini and the other leadership of the conference were vocal proponents of the Church’s teachings on matters of life and sexuality as they spoke out on Italian political controversies, Sodano and his followers favored a more conciliatory stance, desiring to keep the Church from being seen as an enemy or ally of any political faction.  Bagnasco is seen as favoring the Ruini stance, having spoken out recently against state recognition of civil unions.

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