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Pope appoints close ally to major Argentine diocese

Archbishop Victor Fernandez with Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civilta Cattolica (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis has appointed one of his closest theological advisors, Victor Manuel Fernandez, as the new Archbishop of La Plata, one of the most senior positions in the Argentine Church.

He replaces Archbishop Hector Aguer, who submitted his resignation after turning 75 last month.

Archbishop Fernandez is a close associate of Pope Francis. In 2009, the then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio appointed Fernandez as rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, however the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith raised concerns over the orthodoxy of his previous works.

Fernandez retired as rector in April this year, and was hoping Pope Francis would appoint him Archbishop of La Plata, the second most senior archbishopric in Argentina after Buenos Aires.

He helped draft Pope Francis’s first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which included several references to his own work as source material.

The archbishop was also heavily involved in drafting Amoris Laetitia, to the extent that observers noticed that passages within the final document very closely resembled previous writings by the archbishop.

In 1995, the archbishop published his most controversial book, titled “Heal Me With Your Mouth: the Art of Kissing”. In the introduction, he stated that he had “chatted at length with many people who have abundant experience in this area, and also with many young people who learn to kiss in their own way.”

“…trying to synthesize the immense richness of life, these pages emerged in favour of kissing. I hope that they help you kiss better, that they motivate you to release the best of your being in a kiss.”

CNA says the book has disappeared from most official lists of Fernandez’s works. However, a full English translation appeared online last September.