Pope Francis accepts Ouellet’s resignation, appoints American to lead Dicastery for Bishops

Pope Francis accepts Ouellet’s resignation, appoints American to lead Dicastery for Bishops

Pope Francis with Bishop Robert Francis Prevost. VATICAN NEWS

By Courtney Mares

Catholic News Agency

January 31, 2023

ROME— Pope Francis on Monday named an American as the next prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Bishops to succeed Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

Bishop Robert Francis Prevost will lead the Vatican office responsible for evaluating new members of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy, the Vatican announced Jan. 30.

Prevost, 67, has served as a bishop of the Diocese of Chiclayo in Peru since 2015. He is a member of the Order of St. Augustine and led the Augustinian order as prior general from Rome for more than a decade after serving as a missionary priest for the order in Peru in the 1990s.

Born in Chicago in 1955, Prevost entered the Augustinian order as a novice at the age of 21. He studied philosophy at Villanova University and theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago before being ordained to the priesthood in Rome in 1982.

Prevost earned a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome in 1985.

He helped to establish in 1988 the order’s formation house in Trujillo, Peru, where he went on to serve as prior, formation director, judicial vicar, and a director of seminary studies. He returned to the U.S. in 1999 after being elected prior of the order’s Chicago province.

After becoming a bishop in Peru, Prevost was appointed by the pope as a member of the Dicastery for Bishops and the Dicastery for Clergy.

As the prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, Prevost will play a key role in the selection process for diocesan bishops and in the investigation of allegations against bishops.

The ultimate decision in appointing bishops rests with the pope, and he is free to select anyone he chooses. Usually, the pope’s representative in a country, the apostolic nuncio, passes on recommendations and documentation to the Vatican. The Dicastery of Bishops then discusses the appointment in a further process and takes a vote. On being presented with the recommendations, the pope makes the final decision.

Prevost will begin his new post on April 12 and will receive the title of archbishop. He will succeed Ouellet in both the position of prefect and as the next president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

The Vatican announced on Monday that Pope Francis had accepted Cardinal Ouellet’s resignation at the age of 78, more than three years past the usual retirement age for bishops.

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Ouellet as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops in 2010. A member of the Society of the Priests of St. Sulpice (Sulpicians), he was a theology professor, a missionary in Colombia, and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity before being appointed archbishop of Quebec — and thus primate of Canada — by Pope John Paul II in 2002.

After the cardinal was accused of sexual assault in a civil suit in August 2022, the Vatican conducted a preliminary investigation and concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to begin a canonical investigation against Ouellet for sexual assault.

Ouellet, who strongly denies the allegations, filed a defamation lawsuit in Quebec courts contending that the woman wrongly accused him of sexual assault in the lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Quebec.

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