Divorced Catholics remarriage document author gets top doctrine job

Pope Francis has appointed a like-minded Argentinian to lead the doctrine office at the Holy See.

The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith is one of the Vatican’s most influential departments.

Known as an influential papal theological adviser, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez will take up his appointment in September this year.

That’s just a month before the Sixteenth Ordinary Synod of Bishops, scheduled for this October in Rome. At this – the synod on synodality’s third and universal phase – the bishops will reflect on synthesised feedback from all corners of the world.

Importantly, Francis’s theme for this synod is the “Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”.

Marriage of two minds

Known as a trusted papal advisor, Fernandez is widely believed to have been a key author behind some of Francis’ most consequential documents.

These include, for example, the 2016 papal exhortation “God is Love”. That exhortation discussed enabling divorced Catholics who remarry in civil ceremonies to receive Communion.

It’s an issue many hope will open the way for people who currently can’t receive Communion to be allowed to do so.

Others are likely to object. The conservative hierarchy will. So will rank-and-file faithful. Many may not want such a change codified in teaching about the sacraments.

Changing times

Change is in the air and Francis is preparing for it.

His new appointee will lead the doctrine office immediately after decisions coming out of the synod on synodality are finalised.

In his letter to Fernandez about his prestigious appointment, Francis wrote:

“I entrust to you, as the new prefect of the Dicastery … to safeguard the teaching that flows from the faith to ‘give reasons for our hope, but not as an enemy who critiques and condemns’ (Evangelii gaudium, 271).”

He also says: “The dicastery over which you will preside in other times came to use immoral methods.

“Those were times when, rather than promoting theological knowledge, possible doctrinal errors were pursued. What I expect from you is certainly something very different.

“So as not to limit the significance of this task … it is a matter of ‘increasing the understanding and transmission of the faith in the service of evangelisation, so that its light may be a criterion for understanding the meaning of existence, especially in the face of the questions posed by the progress of the sciences and the development of society.” Francis wrote.

About Fernandez

The new Prefect is 60 years old. His roles to date include terms as dean of the Faculty of Theology of Buenos Aires, president of the Argentine Society of Theology, and president of the Argentine bishops’ faith and culture commission.

The Holy See press office says his writings are marked by “a significant biblical basis and a constant effort to create a dialogue between theology and culture, evangelising mission, spirituality and social issues.”

He is replacing 79-year-old Jesuit Cardinal Luis Ladaria who is retiring.

Ladaria took over the office in 2017 after Francis removed conservative German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller.

Francis is likely to appoint Fernandez as a cardinal, meaning he would be eligible to vote in future conclaves for the next two decades.



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