There had been no Episcopal Appointments since Pope Benedict XVI's abdication and one can imagine Cardinal Marc Ouellet Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops must have a bulging file to present to the new Holy Father. He has made one Appointment - that of his own successor as Archbishop of Buenos Aires , he is Mario Aurelio Poli who has had a distinguished Priestly and Episcopal role in Education at a variety of levels including at Major Seminary and University, and has been until now Bishop of Santa Rosa. One can well imagine the Holy Father with paternal affection for his former flock choosing to make this his first Appointment.
But what of Cardinal Ouellet's bulging file? And for that matter how will Pope Francis approach the task. Not every Pope I am sure, would go about it in the same way. No doubt different Popes will question the recommendations put to them to different degrees and in different ways. It may well be that different regions will attract special attention because of their particular problems.
Two regions are fairly open to our gaze, so we will look at them :
There are two Vacant Sees :
Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese - Vacant since 2nd April, 2012 almost one year - when Archbishop Mark Coleridge was appointed to Brisbane.
Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese - Vacant since 9th June ,2009 three years and nine months. The delay was caused by formal consideration of the possible dismembering of the Diocese, but that was decided against not so long ago.
There are four Sees occupiedwhose Bishops have exceeded
the Retirement Age and successors
are required :
Hobart Archdiocese - incumbent Archbishop Adrian Leo Doyle attained 75 yrs of age on 16 November, 2011 and is therefore 1year and four months past the limit.
The Maronite Diocese of Sydney - incumbent Bishop Ad Abi Karam attained 75 years of age on 28th March, 2012 and is therefore just 2 days over 1 year past the limit.
Rockhampton Diocese - incumbent Bishop "call me Brian" Heenan attained 75 years of age on 4th August, 2012 and is therefore almost 8 Months past the limit.
Lismore Diocese - incumbent Bishop Geoffrey Hilton Jarrett attained 75 years of age on 1st December, 2012 and is therefore almost 4 months past the limit.
We believe from our personal knowlege of his orthodoxy and devotion, that the Holy see would be unlikely to be in haste to replace Bishop Jarrett in Lismore. In other cases, problems in finding suitable candidates for difficult posts and then securing their agreement to accept the appointment might explain a lot.
There are three Sees and one Auxiliary Appointment in the immediate
future in which Appointments will need to be made:
Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane - Bishop Brian Finnigan attains 75 years of age on the 2nd of August, 2013 . The Appointment to be made might allow for someone to be put in place who might succeed as Archbishop of Brisbane when in due course Archbishop Mark Coleridge attains 75 years of age on 25th September, 2023.If it seems premature to mention this, it should be considered that it is only just over 10 years away.
Broken Bay Diocese - Bishop David Louis Walker attains 75 years of age on 13 th November,2013 meaning that in 227 days he will reach the limit.
Townsville Diocese - Bishop Michael Putney has the sad misfortune of suffering terminal inoperable cancer and has been officially reported as not having long to live. We pray that his suffering will be minimised by advanced palliative care.
Chaldean Eparchy of Sydney - Archbishop Djibrail Kassab attains 75 years on 4 the August, 2013.
The complexities do not end there of course. If any of these appointments require the movement of a Bishop from another Episcopal appointment that vacancy will need to be filled This could well occur in the case of Canberra - Goulburn and Hobart.
It will be interesting at the least, to see the type of appointments made by Pope Francis. The quality had been steadily improving under Pope Benedict, but had been sometimes uneven in the time of Blessed Pope John Paul II who was not always well served by the relevant Dicastery and did not have the bent to get heavily involved in administrative matters we are told.
It would be a great shame to see any falling back in quality due to too ready acceptance of the bureaucracy.Though one suspects that under Cardinal Ouellet, that level of screening has already been done and some of the less helpful interventions in the process prevented.
THE UNITED STATES
The relevant information is presented below in tabular form from Ed Peters excellent Canon Law Blog and I would urge all readers to visit it
for more complete information at :http://www.canonlaw.info/ten_bishops.htm
1983 CIC 151. The provision of an office which entails the care of souls is not to be deferred without a grave cause.
Olim, 1917 CIC 155. The provision of an office to which no term is prescribed by special law shall not be deferred beyond six months' available time from the receipt of notice of the vacancy, with due regard for Canon 458.
El Paso TX, 1914
Bridgeport CT, 1953
Portland ME, 1853
Fargo ND, 1897
Oakland CA, 1962
Rochester NY, 1868
Ft. Worth TX, 1969
Marquette MI, 1853/1937
Arch / Bishops
Abp. Francis George
Chicago IL, 1843
Bp. Michael Pfeifer
San Angelo TX, 1961
Bp. Walter Hurley
Grand Rapids MI, 1882
Bp. John Kinney
St. Cloud MN, 1875/1889
Bp. Joseph Latino
Jackson MS, 1977
Abp. Henry Mansell
Hartford CT, 1843
Bp. Timothy McDonnell
Springfield MA, 1870
Arch/Bishops Currently in Office
Bp. Sam Jacobs
Houma-Thibodaux LA, 1977
Bp. Robert Brom *
San Diego CA, 1936
Bp. Howard Hubbard
Albany NY, 1847
Bp. Dale Melczek
Gary IN, 1956
Bp. George Coleman
,So we can see that the folder Cardinal Ouellet will bring to the Holy Father's temporary (?) office in Casa Santa Marta will be fat and filled with potential for good or for ill. May God guide Pope Francis firmly.
Meanwhile in the picture above the Holy Father generously jokes with Deacon Nicholas Rynne - Sydney Archdiocese nurtured - educated in the North American College in Rome - perhaps the first Queenslander he has encountered . He seems to be saying " Can you believe this guy!"