Pope Benedict Begins Vatican Shakeup

Sunday, 08 Mar 2009 07:03 PM

By Edward Pentin

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Pope Benedict XVI is expected to approve a number of administrative changes at the Vatican over the next few weeks after months of internal mismanagement and avoidable controversies have left many Church officials saddened and perplexed.

Newsmax has learned that the personnel changes will affect the “second rung” of officials within the Secretariat of State – essentially the executive branch of the Vatican. Further changes among the top ranks of the Roman Curia are also likely over the next few months..

The news comes after two very public controversies which many Church observers say could have been avoided. The first related to Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to lift the excommunications of four bishops belonging to the breakaway Society of Pius X – a group which refuses to accept the reforms of the Second Vatican Council which took place in the 1960s.

One of them, Richard Williamson, denied the extent of the Holocaust in an interview broadcast on Swedish television just days before the Pope’s announcement. The Pope was unaware of Williamson’s controversial views which had been public knowledge for some years.

Days later, a further storm was generated after the Pope appointed an Austrian priest, Fr. Gerhard Maria Wagner, as auxiliary bishop of Linz. Fr. Wagner had once described Hurricane Katrina as God's punishment for the sins of New Orleans. Priests in Linz announced that they would not accept him, and the Austrian bishops issued a statement criticizing the appointment. Fr. Wagner, regarded as an able, conservative priest, later expressed his wish not to accept the position and the Vatican later rescinded the appointment.

Vatican sources say both controversies over Williamson and Wagner could have been mitigated. Church commentators say weaknesses in internal management and communications are the main causes of these missteps. The rescinding of Fr. Wagner’s appointment came as a particular disappointment to many in the Curia because of his orthodoxy. The appointment might have had a better chance of success had officials handled it better.

The majority of these internal communication and managerial problems are said to originate within the Secretariat of State which is responsible for coordinating all departments of the Roman Curia, and the Vatican’s relations with foreign governments.

As well as personnel changes among officials in the Secretariat of State, at least eight Curia cardinals are close to, or beyond, their normal retirement age of 75. The Pope is therefore expected to announce their replacements in the coming months.

Newsmax has learned that one cardinal, Castrillon Hoyos, will be asked to step down before Easter. The 79 year-old Colombian cardinal was responsible for pushing through the lifting of the excommunications of the four breakaway bishops. Sources say the commission he heads will probably be merged with the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship in the coming months.

For the moment, Benedict XVI is unlikely to carry out more radical reorganization of the Curia, but restrict any reform to personnel changes.

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