Congregation for Bishops
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of the Catholic Church
The Congregation for Bishops (Latin: Congregatio pro Episcopis) is the department of the Roman Curia that oversees the selection of most new bishops. Its proposals require papal approval to take effect, but are usually followed. The Congregation schedules the visits at five-year intervals ("ad limina") that bishops are required to make to Rome, when they meet with the pope and various departments of the Curia. It also manages the formation of new dioceses. It is one of the more influential Congregations, since it strongly influences the human resources policy of the church.
The Congregation for Bishops does not have jurisdiction over mission territories and areas managed by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches which has responsibility for Eastern Catholics everywhere and also for Latin Catholics in the Middle East and Greece. Where appointment of bishops and changes in diocesan boundaries require consultation with civil governments, the Secretariat of State has primary responsibility, but must consult the Congregation for Bishops.
The Congregation for Bishops has its origins in the "Congregation for the Erection of Churches and Consistorial Provisions" founded by Pope Sixtus V on 22 January 1588. Before the Second Vatican Council, when the pope announced the names of new cardinals at a Secret Consistory, that is, a consistory that only churchmen attended, the names of new cardinals would be read out, followed by those of archbishops and bishops. The name was changed from the Sacred Consistorial Congregation to the Congregation for Bishops in 1967. Since 30 June 2010 its Prefect has been Cardinal Marc Ouellet. Since 12 October 2013 its Secretary has been Archbishop Ilson de Jesus Montanari. Since 25 January 2012 its Undersecretary has been Monsignor Udo Breitbach.
The Congregation's members who live in Rome meet every other Thursday for an entire morning. Appointments for four dioceses are reviewed in a typical session. Before the meeting, congregation members are sent documentation on the candidates for each diocese. At the meeting, one member takes the role of the presenter (ponente), reviews the information and makes his own recommendation from the list (terna) of three candidates. Each member, in order of seniority, offers his assessment. The Congregation's recommendations, including any doubts, questions or minority opinions, are sent to the pope. He usually approves the congregation’s decision, but may choose to send it back for further discussion and evaluation. The prefect then meets with the pope every Saturday and presents the recommendations of the congregation. A few days later, the pope informs the congregation of his decision. The congregation then notifies the nuncio, who in turn contacts the candidate and asks if he will accept the appointment.
Secretaries of the Congregation for the Erection of Churches and Consistorial Provisions (1588–1965)
- Domenico Riviera (1710–1730)
- Carlo Gaetano Stampa (1735–1737)
- Niccola Clarelli Parracciani (1860–1872 ?)
- Carmine Gori-Merosi (1882–1886)
- Carlo Nocella (1892–1903)
- Gaetano de Lai (1908–1928)
- Carlo Perosi (1928–1930)
- Raffaele Rossi (1930–1948)
- Adeodato Giovanni Piazza (1948–1957)
- Marcello Mimmi (1957–1961)
- Carlo Confalonieri (1961–1965)
Congregation of Bishops (since 1965)
In 1965, the head of the congregation took the title prefect, while the prefect's deputy took that of secretary.
- Carlo Confalonieri (1965–1973)
- Sebastiano Baggio (1973–1984)
- Bernardin Gantin (1984–1998)
- Lucas Moreira Neves, OP (1998–2000)
- Giovanni Battista Re (2000–2010)
- Marc Ouellet, PSS (2010–present)
The secretary of the Congregation for Bishops is concurrently the secretary of the College of Cardinals. During a Papal election the secretary of the Congregation acts as the secretary to the Conclave.
- Francesco Carpino (1961–1967)
- Ernesto Civardi (1967–1979)
- Lucas Moreira Neves, OP (1979–1987)
- Giovanni Battista Re (1987–1989)
- Justin Francis Rigali (1989–1994)
- Jorge María Mejía (1994–1998)
- Francesco Monterisi (1998–2009)
- Manuel Monteiro de Castro (2009–2012)
- Lorenzo Baldisseri (2012–2013)
- Ilson de Jesus Montanari (2013–present)
- Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega of Guadalajara, Mexico
- Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, U.S.
- Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez of Bogota, Colombia
- Cardinal Kurt Koch of Switzerland, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
- Cardinal João Braz de Aviz of Brazil, prefect of the Congregation for Religious
- Cardinal Pietro Parolin of Italy, the Secretary of State
- Cardinal Beniamino Stella of Italy, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy
- Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri of Italy, Secretary General of the Synod for Bishops
- Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England
- Archbishop Paolo Rabitti, the retired archbishop of Ferrara-Comacchio, Italy
- Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, Perugia-Citta della Pieve (Italy)
- Bishop Felix Genn of Münster, Germany
- Pastor bonus, article 60 Archived February 23, 2001, at the Wayback Machine.
- Pastor bonus, article 47 Archived February 23, 2001, at the Wayback Machine.
- "How Bishops Are Appointed". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
- Tornielli, Andrea (12 October 2013). "Francis appoints a Brazilian to the "bishop factory"". Vatican Insider. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
- O'Connell, Gerard (16 December 2013). "Pope Francis makes significant changes in the Congregation for Bishops". Vatican Insider. Retrieved 7 January 2014.