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Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle

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Theologians, defenders of faith, prominent among recently named bishops worldwide
January 17th, 2012
By Sandro Magister

ROME – Rounding the turn of his first year as prefect of the congregation for bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec has surveyed the course in an interview for Avvenire, the newspaper owned by the Italian episcopal conference.

In the Nov. 18 interview, he revealed among other things that it often happens, “more than I could have expected,” that the candidate chosen to be made a bishop does not accept the appointment.

He indicated the reasons for such refusals in the growing difficulty of fulfilling the role, in a society in which the bishops are under public attack, “in part as a result of the scandals and charges concerning sexual abuse.”

As for career ambitions, the cardinal cautioned that if a priest or a bishop aspires and maneuvers to be promoted to a prominent diocese, “it is better for him to stay where he is.”

He concluded the interview by sketching the profile of the bishop the church needs most today:

“Today, especially in the context of our secularized societies, we need bishops who are the first evangelizers, and not mere administrators of dioceses, who are capable of proclaiming the Gospel, who are not only theologically faithful to the magisterium and the pope but are also capable of expounding and, if need be, of defending the faith publicly.”

This profile of the bishop as theologian and “defensor fidei” fits Cardinal Ouellet himself perfectly.

A Canadian from Quebec, 67, a member of the Society of St. Sulpice, Ouellet was part of the circle of the international theology journal Communio, founded by, among others, Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar, who were his intellectual mentors.

In Quebec, he witnessed one of the most dizzying collapses of Catholicism in the past century. This region, which had a strong Catholic character until the middle of the 20th century, is today one of the most secularized in the world. As an archbishop, he fought energetically to give a voice and a body back to Christianity in his land. Pope Benedict XVI appreciated this so much that he called him to Rome first as a speaker at the synod of bishops in 2008, and then, since 2010, as prefect of the congregation for bishops.

Among the cardinals of the Roman Curia, Ouellet is the closest to Pope Benedict XVI, with whom he meets regularly, once a week. And he may be the only one in whom the pope confides without reservation.

Since Ouellet has presided over the Vatican congregation that selects and proposes new bishops to the pope, the preference shown for theologians and defenders of the faith has been more and more evident. Over the past five months alone, at least 12 appointments could be characterized this way.

1. Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan
As a theologian, his mentor was above all von Balthasar; but Ratzinger also had no small impact on his formation. His talent was and is that of making himself heard, more than in the halls of academia, in the public square. After Carla Maria Martini, Scola is the cardinal to whom the secular media pay the most attention. He speaks and writes in full harmony with the magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI.

2. Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of Philadelphia
Chaput has never been a theologian in the specific sense of the word. But he is certainly a great apologist, capable of preaching the Gospel from the rooftops, without timidity and without compromise, in a society where the competition is particularly fierce both within and against the religious sphere.

3. Ivo Muser, bishop of Bolzano and Bressanone
He studied theology in Innsbruck, and in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He taught at the Academic Theological Institute of Bressanone. He was also for several years the secretary of his predecessor as bishop, Wilhelm Egger, a theologian and renowned biblicist in his own right.

4. Stanislaw Budzik, archbishop of Lublin
He has been secretary general of the Polish episcopal conference and also studied theology in Innsbruck, where he acquired the title of professor at the Pontifical Theological Academy of Krakow.

5. Nuno Bras da Silva Martins, auxiliary bishop of Lisbon
He received his doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University and taught fundamental theology at the Catholic University of Portugal as well as at the Gregorian in Rome, where he was also rector of the Pontifical Portuguese College.

6. Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila
He received his doctorate in theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., with a thesis on episcopal collegiality. In 2001, he became bishop of Imus, where he distinguished himself by his nearness to the poor and his simple and charitable way of life. At the episcopal conference of the Philippines, he is president of the commission for the doctrine of the faith. Manila is a cardinal see, and there are some who have even added Tagle to the list of the “papabili” – cardinals considered papal material by Vatican pundits.

7. Charles Morerod, bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg
A Dominican, 50, he is a theologian of world renown. On relations among the religions, he has harshly criticized the relativistic ideas of the Catholic Paul Knitter and the Anglican John Hick. He is one of three theologians on the Roman side in the discussions under way between the Church of Rome and the schismatic Lefebvrist traditionalists of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X.

8. Francesco Cavina, as bishop of Carpi
A doctor in canon law, he had been an official of the Vatican secretariat of state since 1996, in the section for relations with states. At the same time, he taught sacramental theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

9. Filippo Santoro, archbishop of Taranto
As a young priest, he began as director of the Higher Institute of Theology in Bari. After which he went on mission to Brazil, as the Communion and Liberation director for that country and for the entire Latin American continent. In 1992, he participated as a theologian in the fourth conference of the Latin American episcopate in Santo Domingo. Ordained a bishop in 1996, he served as a member of the commission for the doctrine of the faith at the Brazilian episcopal conference.

10. Franco Giulio Brambilla, bishop of Novara
An auxiliary bishop of Milan since 2007and the vicar for culture, he is one of the most accomplished Italian theologians.

11. Johannes Wilhelmus Maria Liesen, bishop of Breda, in Holland
He was a professor of biblical theology and has been a member of the international theological commission since 2004.

12. Charles J. Brown, titular archbishop of Aquileia
Aquileia, which as a diocese lives only in historical memory, is not where the newly elect is going. His true destination is the apostolic nunciature in Ireland. Brown has never been part of the Vatican diplomatic corps, and is an American from New York, but the pope wanted him specifically as his ambassador in a nation rocked by scandals. Ireland, with seven vacant dioceses, is awaiting a redesign and a new beginning with new men.

Rome-based journalist and author Sandro Magister is the creator of the website, where this article first appeared. He studied theology, philosophy and history at the Theological Faculty of Milan and at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.



From January 20, 2012 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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