Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The New Cardinal Archbishop of Milan

The Holy Spirit is at work in the Church.

Cardinal Angelo Scola has just been named Metropolitan Archbishop of Milan. After many years, he is going home.

I knew him a generation ago, when he was just "Don Angelo," and then later when he first became bishop of Grosseto on the tranquil, lovely coast of the Mediterranean. He was a professor at the John Paul II Institute, and when the American faculty was first formed in Washington, D.C. he would come to teach for a few weeks each year. He would also spend time with the Washington group of Communion and Liberation. In these contexts I got to know him and benefited from his advice both personally and in the shaping of my vocation as a theologian.

He is a simple, humble, down-to-earth man who is also brilliant, prolific, and a pioneer in the building of educational institutions that are specially suited to serve the needs of the Church today. After becoming a bishop, he became the head of the John Paul II Institute. In 2002, he became Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, and took advantage of the historic character of Venice as a "crossroad" of civilizations in order to establish institutions and periodicals and hold conferences dedicated to the increasingly intense and important encounter between Christianity and Islam. In trying to grapple with issues such as Muslim immigration and the situation of ancient Christian churches in Islamic countries, Cardinal Scola's approach is neither irenic nor confrontational. Rather, he is a realist and he is constructive. Indeed, this is his approach to every problem.

In this way he is very much like his older friend, mentor, and collaborator of many years, Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Scola is about to become pastor of one of the largest and most important churches in Europe. The Archdiocese of Milan has its own rite, the "Ambrosian rite," which differs slightly from the Roman rite in the Latin Western tradition, but highlights the antiquity and distinctiveness of this church, and its connection to the great Church Father St. Ambrose. Milan also has the only Catholic "undergraduate" university in Italy, the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. Cardinal Scola is a graduate of this institution, and no doubt it will be an important focus of his new pastoral ministry.

He is a man devoted to education and catechesis. He is arguably the foremost expert on the thought of Blessed John Paul II. He is dedicated to the New Evangelization. He has both the experience and the vision necessary to grapple with the new encounter between the West and the Islamic world. He loves the Church.

May God grant Benedict XVI many years. But eventually, there will be another conclave. The Church will look for someone to carry on the great work of Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Only the Holy Spirit knows who that person will be. But I must say, I wouldn't be surprised....

Of course what matters now is the present moment. Let us pray for Cardinal Scola in his important new work, and thank God for the gift that he is to the Church.

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