Giovanni Battista Re

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Giovanni Battista Re
Dean of the College of Cardinals
Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops
Photo of Cardinal Re in 2009
Re in 2023
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
Appointed16 September 2000
Term ended30 June 2010
PredecessorLucas Moreira Neves
SuccessorMarc Ouellet
Other post(s)
Ordination3 March 1957
by Giacinto Tredici
Consecration7 November 1987
by Pope John Paul II
Created cardinal21 February 2001
by Pope John Paul II
RankCardinal-Bishop (2002–present)
Personal details
Giovanni Battista Re

(1934-01-30) 30 January 1934 (age 90)
DenominationRoman Catholic
ParentsMatteo Re (father)
Previous post(s)
  • Virtus ex alto
    (Power from on high)
Coat of armsGiovanni Battista Re's coat of arms
Styles of
Giovanni Battista Re
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
SeeOstia and Sabina-Poggio Mirteto (suburbicarian dioceses)

Giovanni Battista Re (born 30 January 1934) is an Italian cardinal of the Catholic Church whose service has been primarily in the Roman Curia. He was elevated to the rank of cardinal in 2001. He was prefect of the Congregation for Bishops from 2000 to 2010. As the senior cardinal-bishop in attendance, he chaired the March 2013 papal conclave to elect Pope Benedict XVI's successor. Pope Francis approved his election as Dean of the College of Cardinals on 18 January 2020.

Early years[edit]

Born in Borno, Italy, the son of the carpenter Matteo Re (1908–2012),[1] Giovanni Battista Re was ordained a priest by Archbishop Giacinto Tredici in Brescia on 3 March 1957. He holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, and taught in the Brescia seminary.[citation needed] To prepare for a diplomatic career he entered the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in 1961.[2]

Curial service[edit]

Re has been a member of the Roman Curia since 1963, where he served as personal secretary to Archbishop Giovanni Benelli. He was elevated to monsignor and served in various diplomatic positions before being named both bishop of the titular see of Forum Novum and secretary of the Congregation for Bishops on 9 October 1987.[3] Pope John Paul II administered the episcopal consecration one month later, on 7 November.


On 12 December 1989, he became sostituto ("substitute") for general affairs of the Vatican's Secretariat of State, one of the key positions under the Cardinal Secretary of State.[3]

Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops[edit]

He was named on 16 September 2000 to head the Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.[3] Re became Cardinal-Priest of Ss. XII Apostoli in the consistory held 21 February 2001, named first among those elevated. The next year, on 1 October, he was named Cardinal Bishop of Sabina-Poggio Mirteto. Re automatically lost his position as prefect on 2 April 2005 upon the death of John Paul II and was reconfirmed in office by Pope Benedict XVI on 21 April 2005. He held both positions until 30 June 2010.

Lincoln excommunications[edit]

In 1996, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, notified Catholics in his diocese that they would incur automatic excommunication if they belonged to groups that espoused beliefs that contradicted Catholic teaching, specifying Call to Action Nebraska, Catholics for a Free Choice, the Freemasons, the Hemlock Society, Planned Parenthood, and others.[4] Call to Action challenged his authority to make such a declaration, asking the Congregation for Bishops to provide an "authoritative judgment of the Holy See".[5] As prefect of the congregation, Re upheld Bruskewitz's action in 2006.[6]

Wielgus scandal[edit]

Re, who as prefect of the Congregation of Bishops assisted the pope in deciding the future careers of the clergy, said, "When Monsignor Wielgus was nominated, we did not know anything about his collaboration [with the secret services]. Wielgus resigned his position as Archbishop of Warsaw on 6 January 2007, just one day after being installed in that post in a private ceremony, just before the start of his public installation, because of revelations that he cooperated with the Polish communist secret police decades earlier".[7]

Society of Saint Pius X[edit]

In January 2009, Re published a decree removing the excommunications from the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X.[8] Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos stated that if anyone in the Vatican should have known about Richard Nelson Williamson's negationist views, it was Re, whose congregation oversaw information about bishops and prelates.[9][10]

Brazilian abortion[edit]

In March 2009, after an abortion on a nine-year-old girl raped by her stepfather and pregnant with twins had been performed to save her life, Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho of Olinda and Recife stated that automatic excommunication had been incurred by the girl's mother and the medical team.[11] President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva criticized what he called the archbishop's "conservative attitude" and health minister José Gomes Temporão directed his criticism against the Catholic Church's position, describing it as "extreme, radical and inadequate". In a comment to an Italian newspaper, Re deplored what he called an attack on the church in Brazil: "It is a sad case, but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated. Life must always be protected. The attack on the Brazilian church is unjustified." He added that excommunication of those who performed the abortion was just.[12] The National Conference of Bishops of Brazil declared the Archbishop's statement mistaken.[13]

McCarrick Scandal[edit]

As prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Re played a central role in Benedict XVI's attempts to discipline former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Re's role in this matter came to light after Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò's August 2018 "Testimony" made a number of specific statements regarding his involvement in the matter, which were clarified and expanded upon by subsequent reporting.

Viganò said that in 2000, Re, as newly appointed prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, opposed McCarrick's appointment as archbishop of Washington. This statement has been supported by reporting by the Catholic News Agency[14] and by Andrea Tornielli and Gianni Valente's book Il Giorno del Giudizio.[15]

Further, according to Tornielli and Valente, sometime after Bishop Paul Bootkoski of Metuchen, McCarrick's former see, reported to Nuncio Gabriel Montalvo Higuera on 5 December 2005, that his diocese had made at least one settlement with a former seminarian who accused McCarrick of sexual harassment, Re informed McCarrick in writing that negative reports about him had come to light.[15] McCarrick was replaced as archbishop of Washington shortly after. In late 2006 or early 2007, after McCarrick had been replaced as archbishop and further reports of McCarrick's sexual assault of adults had reached Rome, Re sent McCarrick a letter via Nuncio Pietro Sambi in which he instructed him to leave the Redemptoris Mater seminary where he was living and to lead a life of retreat and prayer.[16] These instructions were not obeyed. Following the April 2008 publication of Richard Sipe's "Statement for Pope Benedict XVI", Re sent McCarrick another written letter, which was presented to him at the nunciature by Nuncio Pietro Sambi, telling him to leave Redemptoris Mater and live in a monastery or become the chaplain of a home for the elderly run by nuns. In a letter of response, McCarrick refused Re's instructions and proposed instead that he live in a residence for priests in Washington, a parish in Washington, an apartment in Rome, or in a residence near an American Catholic university. He also argued that canceling all his pending invitations and public appearances would bring unwelcome attention.[16] In a subsequently leaked communication to Fr. Anthony Figueiredo of 7 October 2008, McCarrick stated that "Cardinal Re has approved my moving to a parish and my Archbishop [Donald Wuerl] has been great in beginning to work that out". He also stated that he had agreed to make no public appearances either in the United States or abroad without Re's approval and to resign from all Roman and USCCB entities, and that Re had forbidden him to come to Rome.[17] However, McCarrick continued to make many public appearances around the world and to travel to Rome in subsequent years, with no public objection from Re.

According to his August 2018 "Testimony", Viganò learned from a conversation with Re sometime between 16 July 2009 and 30 June 2010[a] that Benedict XVI had imposed disciplinary measures (which Viganò inaccurately referred to as "canonical sanctions") on McCarrick that required him to leave Redemptoris Mater seminary and forbade him to celebrate mass in public, take part in public meetings, give lectures, or travel. While Vigano's original statement gives the impression that he believed that Re was telling him about new events rather than actions that had been undertaken in 2007–2008, a subsequent October 2018 statement[18] clarifies that the 2009-2010 time frame referred to the time when Re told him of these measures, not the time at which the measures were implemented.

Re has refused to speak about his involvement in the matter of McCarrick to journalists.[19][20]

Other positions[edit]

Re was a member of various offices of the Curia. In May 2008, Pope Benedict named him a member of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. He was also a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in addition to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. He held these memberships until his 80th birthday.

College of Cardinals[edit]

Re was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI.[21] He was identified by numerous commentators before and during the 2005 conclave as a potential successor to John Paul II.[22][23][24]

Re in 2009

When Pope Benedict XVI resigned on 28 February 2013, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, and Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, the subdean, were over the age of 80 and therefore ineligible to participate in the conclave to elect his successor. Re, as the senior cardinal elector, presided over the conclave that elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis. At the new pope's inauguration on 19 March 2013, Re was one of the six cardinals who made a public profession of obedience to the new pope on behalf of the College of Cardinals.[25][b]

On 10 June 2017, Pope Francis approved Re's election as subdean of the College of Cardinals by the cardinals of the suburbicarian sees.[26] On 18 January 2020, Pope Francis approved his election to a five-year term as dean of the College of Cardinals by the nine Latin Church cardinal bishops.[27][28]

As Dean of the College of Cardinals, Re along with Pope Francis[29] presided over the State Funeral of Pope Benedict XVI on 5 January 2023.[30] It was the first funeral for a retired pope since Pope Gregory XII, who resigned in 1415 and died two years later.


  1. ^ The timing of this conversation is unclear, but according to Viganò, happened while Re was still Prefect and after Viganò had been transferred to the Vatican City Governatorate.
  2. ^ Re and Tarcisio Bertone represented the cardinal-bishops; Joachim Meisner and Jozef Tomko represented the cardinal priests; and Renato Martino and Francesco Marchisano represented the cardinal-deacons.[25]


  1. ^ "Kardinal Giovanni Battista Re ist (nicht) tot – Unrühmliche Rolle in den Fällen Bischof Krenn und Pfarrer Wagner?" (in German). Katholisches – Magazin für Kirche und Kultur. 31 December 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  2. ^ "Pontificia Accademia Ecclesiastica, Ex-alunni 1950 – 1999" (in Italian). Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Card. Giovanni Battista", Holy See Press Office
  4. ^ "Some Catholics in Nebraska Face Excommunication Order". The New York Times. Associated Press. 17 May 1996. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  5. ^ "Vatican supports excommunication of Call to Action group". Catholic News Agency. 8 December 2006. Archived from the original on 24 September 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  6. ^ Reeves, Bob (7 December 2006). "Vatican upholds excommunication ruling". Lincoln Journal Star. Archived from the original on 23 November 2017. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  7. ^ Reynolds, Matt. "Second Polish cleric resigns over communist links". Reuters. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  9. ^ "Cardinal Castrillon denies advance knowledge of Bishop Williamson's views". 25 September 2009. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  10. ^ Pullella, Philip. "Unusual tit-for-tat in the Vatican over Williamson affair". Archived from the original on 29 September 2009. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  11. ^ Brazil attacks church opposition to girl's abortion Stuart Grudgings, Reuters. Retrieved 2010-4-13.
  12. ^ "Vatican backs excommunication of Brazilian MDs over child's abortion". CBCNews. 7 March 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  13. ^ Nunes Leal, Luciana (13 March 2009). "CNBB desautoriza iniciativa de bispo". O Estadão de S.Paulo. Archived from the original on 23 February 2014.
  14. ^ Condon, Ed (11 September 2018). "What Pope Francis can clarify about the Viganò testimony—and what he can't". Catholic News Agency.
  15. ^ a b Tornielli, Andrea; Valente, Gianni (2018). "La nomina di McCarrick e gli omissis di Viganò". Il Giorno del Giudizio. Edizioni Piemme.
  16. ^ a b Tornielli, Andrea; Valente, Gianni (2018). "Le istruzioni disattese di Benedetto". Il Giorno del Giudizio. Edizioni Piemme.
  17. ^ Figueiredo, Anthony (28 May 2019), Report on Key Findings in Correspondence Concerning Theodore E. McCarrick (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 12 November 2020, retrieved 4 June 2020
  18. ^ O'Connell, Gerard (19 October 2018). "In third letter Viganò repeats accusations but offers no new evidence on McCarrick case". America.
  19. ^ O'Connell, Gerard (30 August 2018). "Vatican officials refuse to discuss Viganò's letter, encourage journalists to study it". America.
  20. ^ Pentin, Edward (10 September 2018). "Vatican Continues Not to Cooperate With Media Over Viganò Allegations". National Catholic Register.
  21. ^ "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: Conclaves of the 21st Century (2005)". Salvador Miranda. Archived from the original on 24 December 2017. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  22. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (3 April 2005). "Challenge Is Posed in Selecting a Successor". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  23. ^ Neuhaus, Richard John (June 2005). "Rome Diary". First Things. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  24. ^ Magister, Sandro (23–30 May 2002). "Verso il conclave. Arriva il Papa Re". L'Espresso. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  25. ^ a b Rolandi, Luca (19 March 2013). "Il giorno di Papa Francesco: La messa di inizio pontificato in Piazza San Pietro" (in Italian). Archived from the original on 8 August 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
  26. ^ "Resignations and Appointments, 10.06.2017" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 10 June 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  27. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 25.01.2020" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 25 January 2020. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  28. ^ Mares, Courtney (25 January 2020). "Cardinal Re elected new dean of the College of Cardinals". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  29. ^ Haq, Sana Noor; Braithwaite, Sharon; Di Donato, Valentina; Gallagher, Delia. "Pope Francis leads funeral for predecessor Benedict XVI, a first in modern times". Cable News Network (CNN). Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  30. ^ Pullella, Philip. "Guide to the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict". Reuters. Retrieved 7 January 2023.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops
9 October 1987 – 12 December 1989
Succeeded by
Secretary of the College of Cardinals
9 October 1987 – 12 December 1989
Archbishop of Vescovìo (pro illa vice)
9 October 1987 – 21 February 2001
Succeeded by
Preceded by Substitute for General Affairs
12 December 1989 – 16 September 2000
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
16 September 2000 – 30 June 2010
Succeeded by
President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America
16 September 2000 – 30 June 2010
Preceded by Cardinal Priest of Santi XII Apostoli
21 February 2001 – 1 October 2002
Succeeded by
Preceded by Cardinal Bishop of Sabina-Poggio Mirteto
1 October 2002 – present
Preceded by Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals
10 June 2017 – 18 January 2020
Succeeded by
Preceded by Dean of the College of Cardinals
18 January 2020 – present