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Pope Francis surprises us again: his new bishops break with the past

by Carlo Marroni

Pope Francis surprises us again. Yesterday, he officially announced two key appointments, the archbishops of Bologna and Palermo, two dioceses that have a long-standing cardinalate tradition. Francis sent Matteo Zuppi, an auxiliary bishop in Rome, to Bologna and Father Corrado Lorefice, a priest (not a bishop) to Palermo.

Two “streetwise priests,” who have gained experience in the poorer parishes, but are involved in other fields, the former in the Community of Sant’Egidio and the latter in the Anti-Mafia associations. Two choices then that favor hands-on pastoral experience that can be added to that of another priest, Father Claudio Cipolla, recently appointed the archbishop of Padua, a very important diocese both for its extension (the fourth in Italy) as well as for the presence of the international renowned sanctuary of St. Anthony.

In short, as the Vatican Insider says, “parish-formed bishops” have arrived within the Italian Church, which has been used to more solemn rituals and procedures and to established career schemes. These included the arrival in the larger dioceses, where the appointment to cardinal was expected, through well-planned pathways.

Today all this is changing and radically. Perhaps both Zuppi and Lorefice will not be made cardinals by the Pope to underscore that there are no longer consolidated privileges, but only the spirit of service.