Pope Francis today named new Archbishops of Mexico City and Paris, the latest round of appointments in his re-shaping of global Catholicism’s leadership.
At Roman noon it was announced that Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes will be the leader of the Archdiocese of Mexico City, the largest in the world with seven million Catholics, and Bishop Michel Aupetit the next Archbishop of Paris, one of European Catholicism’s major leadership positions.
Bishop Aupetit, who succeeds Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, is a former doctor and medical ethicist who was ordained at the relatively late age of 44. A former Vicar-General of the archdiocese and one of its auxiliary bishop he was chosen as Bishop of Nanterre in 2014. His appointment is seen as in the mould of Archbishops Mario Delpini in Milan and Angelo De Donatis as Vicar-General of Rome: like them, Aupetit is renowned for a low-key pastoral style and continues the Pope’s preference for leaders of European dioceses who will build from the bottom up rather than being political and ecclesial heavy-hitters.
But Bishop Aupetit’s expertise in medical ethics - he taught the subject from 1997 to 2007 at a hospital in the Parisian suburb of Créteil - will stand him in good stead for legislative debates on the topic including end of life care and gender re-assignment. In 2015 France’s lower house passed a law allowing for patients near the end of their lives to stop medical treatment and request a “deep sleep” sedation until they die. Critics see this as a form of euthanasia while others who would like a law making the end of life legislation more explicit.
Meanwhile, the decision to name Cardinal Aguiar as Archbishop of Mexico City wasn’t hugely surprising given the Mexican prelate is considered a towering ecclesial figure in Central and Latin America. A former president of CELAM (the Latin American Episcopal Council) he was named a cardinal by Francis in 2016. Before his election as Pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio played a crucial role in CELAM producing the 2007 Aparecida document, a blueprint for the church in the continent combining evangelising zeal with a promotion of popular piety.
Aguiar Retes is steeped in the Aparecida vision with a strong appreciation for Jesuit spirituality, the charism of the Pope’s religious order. The cardinal is also known as a humble pastor who does not fall into “progressive” or “conservative” categories. He's also a theologian who has a doctorate in scripture from the Pontifical Gregorian University.
The appointments in Mexico City and Paris follow the Pope’s recent choices for leaders in dioceses ranging from Tokyo, Brussels, Milan and Newark: all of them are moderate figures whose aim is to stay close to their flocks. The same can also be said for Francis’ picks as cardinals who on the whole have come from far flung corners of the world and have been carrying out the Church’s bread and butter pastoral mission in their dioceses.
PICTURE: Bishop Michel Aupetit pictured in 2015 ©Twitter