The prelate chosen by Francis to lead his renewal of Catholic teaching on marriage and the family says that there will be struggles ahead
When I arrive at the Palazzo San Callisto, which houses the Vatican’s family life department, for my interview with Cardinal Kevin Farrell, a paper sign fixed to the entrance announces that the offices are on the top floor. After he has welcomed me, the cardinal explains that he and his officials have been temporarily moved during renovations, and the thumps and clatter of plasterers and plumbers working on the floor below permeates our discussion. It feels like an apt metaphor for Pope Francis’ vision of the Church – a place where business is conducted to the constant background noise of refurbishment.
Cardinal Farrell, the first Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, has been hard at work since taking up his new responsibilities just over two years ago. The creation of the dicastery – a merger between two pontifical councils – was announced in August 2016. His remit includes the implementation of Amoris Laetitia, Francis’ much-contested family life document, the organisation of the World Meeting of Families, and pushing forward a reinvigorated Church ministry to married couples, to families, and to the laity. He will be beside Pope Francis this week during his visit to Panama for World Youth Day
The 71-year-old Irish-American prelate has many qualifications for the role. He has strong administrative skills, and an MBA from Notre Dame to go with his two postgraduate degrees in theology from the Gregorian and the Angelicum. He also speaks the two most widely spoken languages in the Church, English and Spanish, fluently.