View From Rome
31 March 2016
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The battles down under seem to be developing a habit of popping up in Rome. Hard on the heels of Cardinal George Pell’s grilling by an abuse inquiry comes a double-edged Australian mini-crisis for the Vatican.
First up is the fact that six of Australia’s 33 dioceses are in need of new bishops; indeed, by the end of the year the figure is set to rise to nine – almost a third of the total –as more men in mitres turn 75, the episcopal retirement age. It is the Pope, of course, who appoints the new bishops.
Then there is the worry about the Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, who at Christmas was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare but debilitating illness that causes muscle weakness. It has left him paralysed from the neck down but he is gradually regaining use of his limbs (See News Briefing, page 24). This leaves some big decisions around the leadership of the Church in Australia. And, in Rome, there are certain figures who will be taking a keen interest.
In one corner is Cardinal Pell, 74. He ensured that his protégé Fisher– nicknamed “Boy George” – succeeded him in Sydney. He is also a member of the Congregation for Bishops, which plays an important role in selecting those who lead dioceses.
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