DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     July 21, 1999     vol. 10, no. 135

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Cardinals Gantin, Ratzinger and Ruini Debate Issue

          VATICAN CITY, JUL 19 (ZENIT).- Comments by Cardinal Bernardin Gantin have sparked a debate on the Vatican's procedures for naming bishops. In the pages of "30 Days" and on the Italian Episcopal Conference's television station, Cardinals Gantin, Ruini, and Ratzinger discussed the situation.

          In an interview published last May in the magazine "30 Days," Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation of Bishops and Dean of the College of Cardinals, emphasized the need to return to the old practice of avoiding episcopal transfers from diocese to diocese to eliminate "social climbing and 'careerism.' "

          Cardinal Gantin's words sparked a debate on a very delicate issue. Questioned directly on this matter, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Holy Father's Vicar for the diocese of Rome, and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), said that "transfer of diocese does not spell careerism."

          In a televised debate on the CEI's channel Sat 2000, Cardinal Ruini explained that "the issue is very simple: a diocese becomes vacant when a Bishop dies, or reaches 75 years of age, or is transferred to another diocese. The vacant diocese can be filled in two ways: either a priest is named a Bishop, or an existing Bishop is transferred . The current practice is predominantly, but not always, the latter. I do not know if this would be classified as careerism."

          Cardinal Ruini continued: "I can say that to have been a professor for many years, and the Auxiliary Bishop of Reggio Emilia for three years, helped me a lot when I became the CEI's secretary, it also helped me when I became Cardinal Vicar of the Pope and CEI's president. This seems quite normal to me, quite logical."

          In an interview published in June in the magazine "30 Days," Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said: "I totally agree with Cardinal Gantin. In the Church, above all, there should be no sense of careerism. To be a Bishop should not be considered a career with a number of steps, moving from one seat to another, but a very humble service. I think that the discussion on access to the ministry would also be much more serene if the Episcopate saw it as a service, and not as a career. Even a poor see, with only a few faithful, is an important service in God's Church."

          "Of course there can be exceptional cases," the Cardinal admitted, citing "a very large See where experience of episcopal ministry is necessary, could be an exception ... But it should not be common practice; it should happen only in most exceptional cases. The view of the Bishop-diocese relation as matrimony, implying fidelity, is still valid. The Christian community also feels this way: if a Bishop is appointed to a diocese, this is seen, precisely, as a promise of fidelity. Sadly I myself have not remained faithful in this regard."

          On the suggestion expressed by Cardinal Gantin of a possible change in the Code of Canon Law to prohibit moving from a diocese, Cardinal Ratzinger replied that "it could be given some thought. It would be hard to change the Code, which was published only 16 years ago. In future, I think it would be good to add a phrase on this oneness and fidelity to a diocesan commitment." ZE99071907

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

July 21, 1999       volume 10, no. 135


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