A New Direction for the Church: No More Cardinals for Major Italian Cities

A New Direction for the Church: No More Cardinals for Major Italian Cities
by Franca Giansoldati
2 Minutes of Reading
Thursday 18 April 2024, 13:20 - Last updated: 19 April, 16:24
The city of Florence, just as it happened for Genoa, Turin, Palermo, Naples, Milan, and Venice, will no longer have a cardinal at the head of the diocese in the future. For the Tuscan capital too, Pope Francis's orientation is to proceed with replacements but without appointing new cardinals. And so it should be also for what has always been, for centuries, an important cardinal see. With the retirement of Cardinal Giuseppe Betori this morning, the appointment of a Florentine parish priest with a long past as a missionary in Africa, Don Gherardo Gambelli, so far priest of the Madonna della Tosse in Florence, was made official. Born in 1969 in Viareggio, he was ordained in 1996. From 2011 to 2022 he went to Chad, returning to Italy last year to work in the parish. So far, the only Italian provincial capital of cardinal tradition that Pope Francis has maintained is Bologna with Cardinal Matteo Zuppi. The criteria for choosing new archbishops seem to be more or less the same: men of the Church with rather low-profile but with important experiences in social work, missions, pastoral care. Religious or even diocesan parish priests. From the beginning of his mandate, Pope Francis has made it clear that he is allergic to important academic curricula, to numerous publications, to theological paths certainly considered relevant although he has chosen to privilege more anonymous profiles with a strong pastoral imprint. "The shepherd must smell of the sheep" he has said on more than one occasion, using a colorful expression to explain the necessary change of pace to give the Church the possibility to get closer to ordinary people, to the peripheries, to the destinies of the voiceless in society. The same fate of Florence without a cardinal could also befall Rome, the Pope's diocese, where last week Cardinal Angelo De Donatis was deposed - already parish priest at the church of San Marco in Piazza Venezia - to be transferred to the curia, at the head of the Penitentiary, a kind of elephant's graveyard. Instead, Francis would have established that from now on it will be the vicegerent bishop to carry forward the work of the diocese, instead of a cardinal vicar, as it has always been in the past. In the apostolic constitution Ecclesiarum Communione the Pope has established that the figure of Vicegerent should be considered in all respects the vicar of the Pope. Article two of the regulation for the personnel of the Vicariate then reads that the "Cardinal vicar and the Vicegerent are vicars of the Holy Father", specifying later, always in the same paragraph, that the auxiliary bishops are Episcopal Vicars. With these premises, perhaps Rome could really no longer have cardinals in the future.
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