Tuesday 18 September 2018

All the Pope's men: who sits at Francis's top table?

The pontiff's closest aides on policy are the Advisory Council of cardinals

Monsignor John Kennedy with Pope Francis
Monsignor John Kennedy with Pope Francis
Fr Colin Rothery
Dublin-born Cardinal Kevin Farrell
Bishop Paul Tighe

Sarah Mac Donald

When the papal entourage descends on Dublin this weekend, few if any of the faces in the 100-plus party will be known to the Irish faithful. It will include members of the papal household, such as the Pope's valet and the Pope's physician. The Pope's trusted Masters of ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, will also figure, as well as security from the Vatican police and the Pontifical Swiss Guard. The Vatican's communications team is led by the Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke.

Though the papal entourage is essential to ensuring that every papal visit runs smoothly, members are not part of Pope Francis' inner circle of closest advisors on policy and reform - that role falls to his Advisory Council of cardinals. The Council of Nine (C9) was formally established in September 2013 which signalled the Argentine's adoption of a more collegial approach to governance. The coordinator of the C9 is the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras, Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga. Boston's Cardinal Seán O'Malley is another member, as is Australian George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

The C9 is emblematic of just how deep the sexual abuse crisis in the church reaches. Cardinal Pell has been unavailable to the council since June 2017 as he defends himself against allegations of historical abuse.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Maradiaga's auxiliary and close collaborator, Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle of the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa, recently resigned from office after allegations emerged that he had sexually abused seminarians. And Cardinal O'Malley of Boston was forced to withdraw from the World Meeting of Families over a crisis concerning inappropriate behaviour at a seminary in his diocese.

Then there is Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, Archbishop Emeritus of Santiago de Chile, who refused to meet with victims of clerical abuse. He also turned a deaf ear to calls for an investigation of Fr Fernando Karadima, one of Chile's most notorious predator priests, whom the Vatican in 2011 found guilty, forcing him out of ministry.

While the Irish in the Vatican may not have a place at the top table of the Pope's advisers, there are a number who are in strategically significant positions. Dublin-born Cardinal Kevin Farrell is Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. He is overseeing the World Meeting of Families and will have closely advised Pope Francis ahead of his arrival in Ireland.

The former Bishop of Dallas also served in the archdiocese of Washington under the now discredited Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Cardinal Farrell is a former member of the hugely controversial and archconservative Legion of Christ order, whose founder, Fr Marcial Maciel, sexually abused junior seminarians and fathered six children with different women, some of whom he abused. His brother, Bishop Brian Farrell, is Secretary to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and vice-president of its Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. He remains a member of the Legion of Christ.

Dublin priest Fr Colin Rothery is currently working in the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life and has been part of the preparations and planning for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin. Another high-profile Irishman in the Vatican is Bishop Paul Tighe, who is Secretary to the Pontifical Council for Culture, who is sometimes touted as a future successor to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

Cloyne priest Monsignor Joseph Murphy is currently working at the Secretariat of State. He was an assistant to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's then secretary of state in 2003, when a private meeting took place with the then-president of Ireland, Mary McAleese. The Italian prelate mooted with Dr McAleese the possibility of an agreement to block the Irish State from accessing Church documents in its investigations into clerical sexual abuse.

Mary McAleese recently revealed that she asked the Vatican cardinal why he was proposing the deal and recalled, "it was very clear it was because he wanted to protect Vatican and diocesan archives. I have to say that I immediately said the conversation had to stop. I told him I thought it extraordinarily inappropriate and very, very dangerous to the Church, if it was pursued," she said.

Other Irish clerics making waves in the Vatican include Fr Eamon McLoughlin (Raphoe) working at the Congregation for the Clergy, and Fr Enda Murphy (Kilmore) working at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

But one to watch in the future is Dublin priest Monsignor John Kennedy, who is head of the disciplinary office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. For a number of years, he worked alongside the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was CDF prefect before being elected to the papacy.

Ordained for the Archdiocese of Dublin 25 years ago this year, in July 1993, Monsignor Kennedy was appointed as a curate in the sprawling parish of Crumlin for three years before he took up an appointment in the inner city parish of St Nicholas of Myra on Francis Street for two years. Former parishioners still continue to visit him in Rome, and he is known as a welcoming host, with interests which vary from sports to cooking.

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