Pope Francis appoints head of Vatican bishops department in Chicago

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Robert Francis Prevost OSA to head the Dicastery for Bishops, the Vatican announced Monday, ending months of speculation over who would succeed Cardinal Marc Ouellet as head of the department that oversees episcopal appointments and discipline.

Prevost, 67, served as bishop of the Peruvian diocese of Chiclayo, where he was appointed in 2014. Along with his appointment as prefect, the Vatican press office reported, Pope Francis granted Prevost the personal rank of archbishop, and he will have him take the title of archbishop-bishop emeritus of Chiclayo when he takes office in the dicastery on April 12.

Originally from Chicago, he had previously been appointed by Francis as a member of the Dicastery for Bishops and the Dicastery for Clergy. He is also a canon attorney with experience as both a missionary and diocesan administrator, and previously served as head of the Augustinian world order.

Prévost became superior general of the Augustinians in 2001. Having previously served as provincial superior of the order in the United States. He spent much of his church ministry as a missionary and was consecrated bishop in 2015.

In November 2020, Pope Francis appointed Prevost a member of the then-Congregation for Bishops, a move that surprised many Church observers, given that Prevost is neither a cardinal nor metropolitan archbishop. He was one of three American bishops appointed by Francis to the dicastery, alongside Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark.

Prevost will replace Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian who has led the department since his appointment by Pope Benedict XVI in June 2010, when he was also named head of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America – a role to which he is appointed. now also replaced by Prevost.

Speculation about Ouellet’s retirement and successor has been high in recent months, especially following the promulgation of the new apostolic constitution of the Roman curia, predicate evangelium, last March. After the promulgation of the constitution, Pope Francis appointed three women to sit on the reconstituted dicastery, a historic first.

While numerous reports cite Cardinal Blase Cupich as a likely candidate for the post, sources close to the Dicastery for Bishops have repeatedly stated The pillar that the person nominated by Pope Francis was the current Secretary of the Dicastery, Archbishop Ilson de Jesus Montanari, who reportedly refused the nomination more than once.

Ouellet will leave office just before his 79th birthday and well after the nominal retirement age of 75.

Since the election of Pope Francis, Ouellet has led the Vatican Episcopal Department through a series of major reforms, including the implementation of the two Come una madre amorevole and Your estis lux mundipapal legislation which gave the dicastery responsibility for investigating newly codified or redefined canonical crimes, episcopal neglect and abuse.

Ouellet was also in charge of the department during the fallout from the Theodore McCarrick scandal in 2018, during which the Vatican, and Ouellet’s department in particular, came under scrutiny and criticism for its past handling of allegations of abuse. Abuse Against Disgraced Former Cardinal.

Ouellet has also faced charges of personal misconduct in recent months – charges he has strenuously denied. Last year, the Vatican announced it would not conduct a canonical trial into allegations of sexual misconduct against the cardinal, after a preliminary investigation led Pope Francis to conclude that there were ” insufficient elements” to require a new canonical process.

In December, the cardinal said he would sue the woman who accused him of sexual assault during his tenure as archbishop of Quebec. Earlier this month, French media reported that Pope Francis had considered a second charge against Ouellet, but again found insufficient evidence to initiate a canonical process.

Ouellet’s successor himself has faced questions about his own judgment in the past.

In 2021, The pillar reported that while serving as Augustinian provincial superior in the United States, Prevost allowed a known sex abuser to reside near a Catholic elementary school without alerting either the school or the parish to the priest’s presence.

Prevost now heads the department responsible for handling complaints against serving and retired bishops like Ouellet, and overseeing several ongoing investigations into complaints of misconduct or negligence against bishops around the world.

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