Pope Francis names new prefect of congregation for saints’ causes

Bishop Marcello Semeraro, the new prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Credit: Syrio (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Pope Francis named a new prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Thursday following Cardinal Angelo Becciu’s dramatic resignation from the post last month.

The pope appointed Bishop Marcello Semeraro, who has acted as secretary of the Council of Cardinal Advisers since it was established in 2013, to the position yesterday.

The 72-year-old Italian has served as bishop of Albano, a suburbicarian diocese located about 10 miles from Rome, since 2004. 

Semeraro succeeds Becciu, who stood down 24 September amid accusations that he was involved in embezzlement in his previous role as the second-ranking official at the Vatican Secretariat of State. Becciu was appointed prefect in August 2018, serving for two years. He has denied allegations of financial misconduct.

Semeraro was born in Monteroni di Lecce, southern Italy, on 22 December 1947. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1971 and named bishop of Oria, in Apulia, in 1998. 

He served as special secretary of the 2001 synod of bishops, which addressed the role of diocesan bishops.

He is a member of the Italian bishops’ doctrinal commission, a consultor of the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and a member of the Dicastery for Communication. He has served previously as a member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

As secretary of the council of cardinals, Semeraro has helped to coordinate efforts to create a new Vatican constitution, replacing the 1998 text “Pastor bonus.” 

On Thursday, the pope added a new member to the cardinals’ council: Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The 60-year-old Capuchin has led the archdiocese, which comprises more than six million Catholics, since 2018. 

The pope also named Bishop Marco Mellino, titular bishop of Cresima, as the council’s secretary. Mellino had previously served as adjunct secretary.

Pope Francis also confirmed that the Honduran Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga would remain the council’s coordinator and confirmed that five other cardinals would remain members of the body, which advises the pope on the governance of the Universal Church. 

The five cardinals are Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State; Seán O’Malley, archbishop of Boston; Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay; Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of the Vatican City State.

The six members of the council took part in an online meeting 12 October, in which they discussed how to continue their work amid the pandemic.

The advisory group of cardinals, together with Pope Francis, typically gathers at the Vatican every three months for about three days.

The body originally had nine members and was dubbed the “C9.” But after the departure of Australian Cardinal George Pell, Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, and Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo in 2018, it became known as the “C6.”

A Vatican statement Tuesday said that the council worked this summer on the new apostolic constitution and presented an updated draft to Pope Francis. Copies were also sent to the competent dicasteries to read.

The 13 October meeting was dedicated to summarizing the summer’s work and to studying how to support the constitution’s implementation when it will be promulgated.

Pope Francis, according to the statement, said “the reform is already underway, also in some administrative and economic aspects.”

The council will next meet, again virtually, in December.

Source: CNA