Top Catholic the­olo­gian re­placed

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

VAT­I­CAN CITY: In a ma­jor shake-up of the Vat­i­can’s ad­min­is­tra­tion on Satur­day, Pope Fran­cis re­placed Catholi­cism’s top the­olo­gian, a con­ser­va­tive Ger­man cardinal, who has been at odds with the pon­tiff’s vi­sion of a more in­clu­sive Church.

A Vat­i­can state­ment said Cardinal Ger­hard Lud­wig Mueller’s five-year man­date as head of the Con­gre­ga­tion for the Doc­trine of the Faith, a depart­ment charged with de­fend­ing Catholic doc­trine, would not be re­newed.

The po­si­tion is the most im­por­tant one that a pope fills in the Vat­i­can hi­er­ar­chy af­ter the Sec­re­tary of State. Most in­cum­bents keep it un­til they re­tire, which in Mueller’s case would have been in six years.

Mueller, 69, who was ap­pointed by for­mer Pope Bene­dict in 2012, will be suc­ceeded by the depart­ment’s num­ber two, Arch­bishop Luis Fran­cisco Ladaria Fer­rer.

Ladaria is a 73-year-old Spa­niard who, like the Ar­gen­tinian pope, is a mem­ber of the Je­suit or­der, and is said by those who know him to be a soft-spo­ken per­son who shuns the lime­light. Mueller, by con­trast, of­ten ap­pears in the me­dia.

“They speak the same lan­guage and Ladaria is some­one who is meek. He does not ag­i­tate the pope and does not threaten him,” said a priest, who works in the Vat­i­can and knows both Mueller and Ladaria, ask­ing not to be named.

Since his elec­tion in 2013, Fran­cis has given hope to pro­gres­sives who want him to forge ahead with his vi­sion for a more wel­com­ing Church that con­cen­trates on mercy rather than the strict en­force­ment of rigid rules they see as an­ti­quated.

Mueller’s de­par­ture fol­lows the high-pro­file exit of fel­low con­ser­va­tive Cardinal Ge­orge Pell, the Vat­i­can econ­omy min­is­ter who took a leave of ab­sence on Thurs­day to face charges of his­tor­i­cal sex­ual abuse in his na­tive Aus­tralia.

In 2015 both were among 13 car­di­nals who signed a se­cret let­ter to the pope com­plain­ing that a meet­ing of bish­ops dis­cussing fam­ily is­sues was stacked in favour of lib­er­als. The let­ter was leaked, em­bar­rass­ing the sig­na­to­ries.

“Clearly, the pope and Cardinal Mueller have not been on the same page for five years,” the priest said.

Mueller has crit­i­cised parts of a 2016 pa­pal trea­tise called “Amoris Laeti­tia” (The Joy of Love), a cor­ner­stone doc­u­ment of Fran­cis’s at­tempt to make the 1.2 bil­lion-mem­ber Church more in­clu­sive and less con­demn­ing.

In it, Fran­cis called for a Church that is more com­pas­sion­ate towards any “im­per­fect” mem­bers, such as those who di­vorced and re­mar­ried, say­ing “no one can be con­demned for­ever”.

PIC­TURE: DPA/AP

Ger­man Cardinal Ger­hard Mueller in the cathe­dral in Mainz yes­ter­day. Pope Fran­cis on Satur­day de­clined to re­new his man­date as pre­fect of the Con­gre­ga­tion for the Doc­trine of the Faith.

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