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Italian archbishop named cardinal after Pope blocks retirement

Cardinal-designate Edoardo Menichelli Below: and Cardinal-designate John Dew, right, with Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth (CNS)

The archbishop of Ancona-Osimo, Italy, has been named as a cardinal by Pope Francis, after the Pontiff refused to allow his retirement in October.

Cardinal-designate Edoardo Menichelli is 75 – the age Church law requires bishops to submit their letter of resignation — but Pope Francis announced on January 4 that he would make the archbishop a cardinal on February 14. Like many of the 19 other Churchmen whose nominations were announced by Pope, he said it came as a surprise.

At an evening Mass on January 4 to formally commission lay pastoral workers, the cardinal-designate said he had been working that morning on his homily for the Mass, but it was not going well, so he went to his room.

“I heard squeals like those of children,” he said. “It was my sisters who, without knocking, entered without even knowing if I was dressed — but I was — and they said, ‘The Pope’s made you a cardinal!'”

The secretary of the Italian bishops’ commission for the family, Cardinal-designate Menichelli was appointed by Pope Francis to last October’s extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.

In an interview with Vatican Radio during the synod, he said a key message from the participants was that “we as a Church need to listen more. We live in a world that is so complex that we cannot pigeonhole everything with the certain precise terms or concepts we have been used to using. Today many realities escape us.”

The Church’s pastoral workers are called to accompany Catholic laity “with intelligence, love, passion and a pinch of humility — or maybe more than a pinch,” he said. “Being married today is as difficult as being a priest.”

For 23 years, the cardinal-designate worked at the Vatican in the Apostolic Signature, the Church’s highest court, and he spent two years after that at the Congregation for Eastern Churches. Simultaneously, he helped out at a Rome parish, served as a chaplain at a Rome clinic and as a collaborator with the family counseling program of the faculty of medicine at Rome’s Gemelli hospital.

Saint John Paul II named him archbishop of Chieto-Vasto in 1994 and transferred him to Ancona 10 years later. Long before Pope Francis spoke about how upset he gets when he sees a priest driving a fancy new car, Cardinal-designate Menichelli was known for driving a very old, small Fiat Panda, and for living with great simplicity.

Meanwhile, Cardinal-designate John Dew of Wellington has previously appealed for a more pastoral approach for some of the family issues facing New Zealand Catholics.

At the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, he called on Church leaders to discuss a “pastoral approach” to ending “the scandal of hunger for eucharistic food.”


He said the Church would be enriched if dedicated Catholics excluded from the Eucharist because of Church rules could return to the Lord’s table. He also spoke of an increasing number of marriages between Catholics and members of other Christian faiths, in which the couple could not receive Communion together.

During last October’s Synod of Bishops on the family, he told Salt and Light Television that the New Zealand bishops want “to see language in Church documents changed so that it’s something that gives people hope and support and encouragement, rather than being something that appears to many people” as basically saying “they can’t meet the mark, they can’t live up to the standards the Church is asking of them.”

When the bishops were preparing for the synod, they had a “huge” response, he said: “25 percent of the people responding were non-practicing Catholics and the message was that ‘It’s impossible when we’re told that because we’re using contraceptives we’re intrinsically evil or that we’re living in an irregular situation — the language is so negative that it doesn’t help us.’

“So, my intervention was: Let’s not be concentrating on rules, but looking for language that helps people and encourages people in their journey toward God.”

In a statement, Cardinal-designate Dew said his appointment is recognition of the Catholic Church in Aotearoa, the Maori word for New Zealand, and the contribution it makes to the global Catholic family. He also said he was delighted to hear that Bishop Soane Mafi of Tonga also had been named.

“Together it is not only great news for New Zealand and Tonga, but for the Oceania region,” he said.

“Although we are geographically far from much of the world, Pope Francis has gone to the periphery of the world to name new cardinals.”

New Zealand last had a cardinal eligible to vote at a papal conclave five years ago, until Cardinal Thomas Williams, retired archbishop of Wellington, turned 80.

John Dew was born in Waipawa, a small settlement on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, on May 5, 1948. He attended Catholic schools through high school. He studied philosophy at Holy Name Seminary in Christchurch and theology at Holy Cross Seminary in Dunedin.

He was ordained a priest in May 1976 and became auxiliary bishop of Wellington in May 1995. He was appointed coadjutor archbishop in 2004 and succeeded Cardinal Williams as archbishop the following year.

In addition to participating in the synods on the Eucharist and family, in 2012 Benedict XVI named him to the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization.

He is president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and heads the Military Ordinariate of New Zealand.