Pope Francis has decided not to reappoint Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, the retired leader of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, to a top Vatican panel that recommends new bishops around the world.
Church experts saw the decision, announced Monday, mostly as an acknowledgment of Rigali's age and the age limit for serving on the Congregation for Bishops.
Rigali turns 79 in April, and he would have had to give up his seat when he turned 80. An appointed term on the powerful committee is five years.
"It didn't make much sense to appoint him," said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest and former editor-in-chief of America, a weekly Catholic magazine.
"Pope Francis was looking for new blood, new people," Reese said.
The big news was the removal from the Congregation for Bishops of Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, a staunch American conservative who has been vocal against same-sex marriage and abortion.
"If there was a target here, it was Burke," said Rocco Palmo, a Philadelphia-based chronicler of Catholicism with his blog, Whispers in the Loggia.
Burke was replaced by the more moderate Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, who previously served as bishop of Pittsburgh.
Rigali now lives with Bishop Richard F. Stika in Knoxville, Tenn. Stika was a former top aide to Rigali.
"He's well. He looks good," said Palmo, who spoke with Rigali at the meeting of bishops in Baltimore last month.
Palmo said Rigali seemed to have "loosened up" since his time in Philadelphia, where he presided during a storm of allegations about clergy sex abuse. He led the archdiocese for eight years.