Very interesting. Pope Benedict can’t be accused of being obstinate. Last year, he essentially merged the leadership of two pontifical councils, but now he’s split them up again.
Speaking to the Italian daily La Stampa, Cardinal Bertone said that the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue would be “a dicastery in its own right, whereas previously it had been merged with the Pontifical Council for Culture.” The Vatican Secretary of State said that the change “demonstrates the importance of inter-religious dialogue for the Secretariat of State.”
Last March, the Pope reassigned Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, who was head of Inter-Religious Dialogue, sending him to be nuncio in Egypt in what was widely seen as a demotion and a sign of the Holy Father’s unhappiness with the way such dialogue had been carried out in the past.
Cardinal Paul Poupard was assigned to oversee both that council and Culture. While the mechanisms of the two bodies were kept separate, most observers said it was in effect a merger, with perhaps future modifications to erase the differences.
But now Cardinal Bertone thinks they should be made distinct again.
In his conversation with La Stampa the Secretariat of State did not identify the prelate who would be asked to lead the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue after its return to fully independent status.
Some people are saying that after the controversy over the Pope’s speech at Regensburg a new emphasis needs to be put on dialogue with Islam and that this move is a symbolic gesture. We’ll have to see whether that is born out.
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