Pope replaces ousted Becciu with key ally

Pope replaces ousted Becciu with key ally

In this 2015 file photo, Pope Francis and Italian Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano leave the opening session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican. (Credit: Paul Haring/CNS.)

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Marcello Semeraro as the replacement for Cardinal Angelo Becciu as head of the Vatican’s saint-making office after Becciu was fired last month over allegations of embezzlement.

ROME – On Monday the Vatican announced several key personnel moves, the most significant of which is the appointment of Bishop Marcello Semeraro to the Vatican’s saint-making office after its former prefect, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, was fired over allegations of embezzlement.

Becciu resigned from his post as head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from his rights and duties as a cardinal Sept. 24 at the request of Pope Francis, who, according to Becciu, said he had lost trust after numerous allegations of embezzlement were made. Since then, several other accusations of wrongdoing have hit Italian papers, but no formal charges against Becciu have been made.

The announcement of Semeraro as Becciu’s successor came Oct. 15, just three weeks later, a relatively fast turnaround by Vatican standards.

Bishop of Albano, Semeraro has been a key player in Francis’s reform efforts since he was named secretary to the Council of Cardinals in April 2013.

Semeraro’s rapid appointment to replace Becciu – who oversaw a department widely associated with money given the funds poured into the saint-making process – amid the ensuing scandal shows just how much trust Francis has in him.

The last time Pope Francis named a Congregation head who was not a cardinal was when he appointed then-Archbishop Luis Ladaria as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2017. Ladaria was given a red hat in 2018.

However, Francis is known to break with convention, and doesn’t always award these kinds of promotions with a higher ecclesial status. Jesuit Father Juan Antonio Guerrero has not been made a bishop despite his appointment as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in November 2019.

In addition to Semeraro’s appointment, the Vatican Thursday also announced new appointments to the pope’s Council of Cardinal Advisors.

Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, the Archbishop of Kinshasa, was named as a new member, while Bishop Marco Mellino, until now adjunct secretary, was appointed secretary, replacing Semeraro.

The same announcement also confirmed several members in their positions: Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa will keep his role as coordinator for the council, and the other members are Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin; Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston, who heads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; Archbishop Oswald Gracias of Mumbai; Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising; and Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the government of the Vatican City State.

Thursday’s announcement came two days after the Council of Cardinals held a virtual Oct. 13 meeting to discuss the updated drat of a new constitution restructuring the Roman Curia and its implementation.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen

Latest Stories