Pope orders visitation of Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy

Pope orders visitation of Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy

In this file photo, Pope Francis greets Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, during an audience with participants in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Clergy at the Vatican June 1, 2017. (Credit: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano.)

Pope Francis earlier this month asked an Italian bishop and expert in Canon Law to conduct visitation of the curial Congregation for Clergy, much like the one that recently concluded of the Vatican’s liturgy department.

ROME – Pope Francis earlier this month asked an Italian bishop and expert in canon law to conduct visitation of the curial Congregation for Clergy, much like the one that recently concluded of the Vatican’s liturgy department.

In a letter to diocesan priests widely reported on by Italian news outlets, including Italian newspapers La Stampa and L’Unione Monregalese and the official online news outlet of the Italian bishops, SIR, Bishop Egidio Miragoli of Mondovì said he had been tasked with the job.

Miragoli, who holds a doctorate in canon law from Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, was appointed to lead the Diocese of Mondovì by Pope Francis in September 2017.

In his letter, sent out the morning of June 7 to all priests in his diocese, Miragoli said he was approached by Pope Francis, who wanted “to ask me for a favor,” during the Italian bishops’ recent plenary assembly late last month.

On that occasion, he said, the pope asked him “to make a visitation, in his name, to the Congregation for Clergy.” On June 3, the two had a private meeting at the pope’s residence in the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse where the pope “explained his expectations to me better.”

“Needless to say, the request took me by surprise, and of course I gave my availability,” Miragoli said, explaining that he will begin meeting with individual staff members Wednesday, June 9, and that the visitation will likely take up the entire month of June, “albeit not continually.”

Miragoli assured his priests that commitments already on the calendar, including a swath of confirmations, will be unchanged.

“For the rest, I am asking you for a little patience and understanding, in the certainty that we will be able to harmonize common needs and continue our journey as planned,” he said.

The move comes after Pope Francis earlier this year ordered another, similar, review of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments following the retirement in late February of the department’s former prefect, Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, who had led the offices since 2014.

Bishop Claudio Maniago of Castellaneta, president of the Italian bishops’ liturgical commission and a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship, conducted the visitation.

On May 27, the Vatican announced that after the visitation, Pope Francis had appointed English Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the department, as its new prefect.

The visitation into clergy also comes after the pope voiced concern about the criteria used for men who wish to enter diocesan seminaries, specifically mentioning the frequent failure to check on whether these men had been asked to leave other seminaries or religious orders.

“We have often seen seminarians who seem good but are rigid. And rigidity is not auspicious. Then we discover that behind that rigidity there are big problems,” he said during his inaugural remarks for the May 24 opening session of the Italian bishops’ plenary assembly, indicating that vocational formation, and that of priests specifically, would likely be a topic explored during the upcoming “synodal path” the Italian bishops are preparing to undertake.

Italian Cardinal Beniamino Stella, who has led the Congregation for Clergy since his appointment as prefect in September 2013, is expected to retire soon, as he will turn 80 on Aug. 18, leading some observers to speculate that it could be Pope Francis’s intention to conduct a similar visitation for each department of the Roman Curia when its leadership changes.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen

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