By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tI’m in Rome at the moment, preparing to leave early Tuesday on Pope Benedict XVI’s May 11-14 swing in Portugal. Ecclesiastically speaking, Rome is very much a company town, so speculation about who’s in line for what job is always in the air. These days attention is focused on possible successors to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who’s held the job for the last ten years and who is now 76.
tRecently, the well-connected Italian Vatican writer Andrea Tornielli reported that Pope Benedict XVI has found his man for the job at the Congregation for Bishops: Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia. Pell, who’ll turn 69 in early June, has been the Archbishop of Sydney since 2001 and a cardinal since 2003.
tTrying to predict appointments is a notoriously hazardous enterprise, and until the daily bollettino from the Holy See Press Office appears with Pell’s name on it, nothing’s for sure. Yet if Pell is indeed the new prefect, it would be a landmark move for at least four reasons.