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Canadian Cardinal Ouellet

01 Jul 2010 – by John Thavis and Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has appointed new heads of several Vatican departments, naming Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Cardinal Ouellet, 66, will head the office that helps the pope choose bishops for Latin-rite dioceses around the world. It’s the first time a North American cardinal has been placed in charge of the powerful congregation.

The pope also named Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella as president of a newly created agency, the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. He named Spanish Msgr. Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, a member of Opus Dei, to replace Archbishop Fisichella as president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. The appointments were announced June 30.

On July 1, the pope named Swiss Bishop Kurt Koch as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, replacing German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who had headed the council since 2001.

Cardinal Ouellet, who succeeds 76-year-old Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, is not a stranger to Rome or to the Roman Curia. He studied in Rome and returned to the city to teach in 1996. A year later, he was appointed chair of dogmatic theology at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.

In 2001, he was named a bishop and appointed secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and also served on the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

In 2002, Pope John Paul II named him archbishop of Quebec, and in 2003 he made him a cardinal. He serves on the Vatican congregations overseeing liturgy, clergy and Catholic education, and is also a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

He has been a member of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, which he will now serve as president; the commission was established in 1958 to study issues impacting Catholics in the region and to serve as a channel of communication between the Vatican and the Latin American bishops’ council.

Bishop Koch, who will take over the reins at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, is a past president of the Swiss bishops’ conference, a former professor of dogmatic theology and liturgy and has served as a member of the Christian unity council since 2002. He has also been a member of the international Catholic-Orthodox theological commission and a member of the international Catholic-Lutheran dialogue commission.

In a letter June 30 to Catholics in Basel, Bishop Koch said the pope asked him in February if he would take the job. He said the pope stressed that he wanted someone who had both theological knowledge and practical experience in living and working alongside Protestant communities.

The pope’s words, he said, demonstrate that improved relations with the Orthodox are not his only concern, but that the pope sees the unity of all Christians as the will of Jesus.

Born March 15, 1950, in Emmebrucke, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Basel in 1982. He studied at Lucerne University and at the University of Munich. After three years of service in a parish in Bern, he began teaching at Lucerne, eventually becoming rector of the theological faculty in 1995.

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