Pope Francis on Monday announced the removal of Cardinal Justin Rigali from the Congregation for Bishops, the influential Vatican committee tasked with deciding which priests become bishops.
Blogger Rocco Palma of Whispers in the Loggia, who reported the story Monday, said he wouldn't read too much into Rigali's removal, which coincided with the discharge of 14 other cardinals from the 30-member delegation.
"Under Vatican rules when, a cardinal turns 80, he automatically ceases to be a member of the office," Palma said. "Rigali is going to be 79 in April. He only would have had 15 months left, anyway." Most of the members removed are also approaching the age of 80, save conservative Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, 65.
"Pope Francis, in terms of the life of the church and how Vatican offices are run, is already planning into 2017 and 2018 and he wants a team to be able to stick around for all of that and to really help him get things off the ground for the long term," Palma said.
Palma further pointed out it's a long trip to Rome from Rigali's current home in Knoxville, Tenn., where he moved after two years ago stepping down as Archbishop of Philadelphia amid the clergy sex abuse scandal. "It's a very difficult committee because when the Congregation for Bishops meets every other week, it meets in Rome," Palma said. "Members can't call in votes."
Pope Benedict XVI in October 2007 named Rigali to the congregation, whose members serve in 5-year terms. "Rigali had already fulfilled his first 5-year term last year, and he continued until he was either renewed or not what," Palma said. "What held that up was right after reached his first 5-year term, Pope Benedict resigned and the papacy turned over."
Palma views reshuffling an attempt by Pope Francis to put his own stamp on the delegation. "The pope is moving quickly to shake up the Vatican offices, in general," he said.