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Pope appoints Argentinean prelate to DDF

The statue of St. Peter in St. Peter's square with part of the façade of the basilica visible behind

mdanek / Shutterstock

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 07/01/23

In a letter with his appointment, the Pope calls him to focus on what is most beautiful and at same time most necessary.

Pope Francis has appointed Argentine Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, 60, as prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican press office announced on July 1, 2023.

He succeeds Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, who at the age of 79 is completing his term of office.

The appointment came with a letter from Pope Francis to his countryman, saying that with the appointment, he is entrusting him with a task he considers “very valuable” — that has the principal purpose of “protecting the teaching that springs from the faith so as to ‘give reason for our hope.'”

He noted Archbishop Fernández’s various theological posts, including as rector of Argentina’s Pontifical Catholic University, and his work as a parish priest and archbishop of La Plata Archdiocese.

This dicastery in the past even came to use immoral methods, the Holy Father noted, speaking of how it “chased possible doctrinal errors.” And noting the recent creation of a special section for discipline issues, particularly involving abuse of minors, the Pope urged the prefect to dedicate his personal efforts most directly to the principal task of the dicastery, that is “to keep the faith.”

Citing his document of last year, Pope Francis said that this involves

increasing the understanding and transmission of the faith in the service of evangelization, so that its light may be a criterion for understanding the meaning of existence, especially in the face of the questions posed by the progress of the sciences and the development of society.

These issues, he proposed, when taken up in a renewed proclamation of the Gospel, can even become instruments of evangelisation, because they enable us to enter into conversation with today’s context, “unprecedented in the history of humanity.”

The Pope cited Evangelii Guadium five times in his brief letter, including the observation that

Differing currents of thought in philosophy, theology and pastoral practice, if open to being reconciled by the Spirit in respect and love, can enable the Church to grow …

A harmonious growth will preserve Christian doctrine more effectively than “any method of control,” he said. And he repeated one of his classic assertions: Reality is superior to ideas.

In this respect, the Pope quoted a document on the hope of salvation for children who die without baptism, saying, theology must be “attentive to a fundamental criteria: To consider any theological concept as inadequate that ultimately places in doubt the omnipotence of God, and especially, his mercy.”

“We need a system of thought that knows how to present in a convincing way a God who loves, who forgives, who saves, who liberates, who promotes people, and who calls us to fraternal service,” he said, adding that this will happen if it concentrates on “what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary.”

The Pope warned him against allowing secondary issues to overshadow the central “truths of our message.”

His task also implies ensuring that DDF documents and others of the Curia have adequate theological foundations, and are “coherent with the rich soil of the perennial teaching of the Church while welcoming the recent Magisterium.”

In this weighty task, the Pope entrusted Archbishop Fernàndez to Our Lady.

Pope FrancisRoman Curia
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