Argentinian Victor Manuel Fernández, 60, bishop of La Plata (Argentina), close to Francis, will become the new chief theologian of the Holy See in September. This key position was occupied in the time of John Paul II by Cardinal Ratzinger, who himself became pope under the name of Benedict XVI. But it is above all the way in which the appointment of Victor Manuel Fernández was announced, on July 1, which indicates a change in the Vatican. Indeed, it was accompanied by an unusual letter from the pope reorienting the missions of the dicastery for the doctrine of the faith.
While the reform of the Curia promulgated in March 2022 by the pope assigned the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to “ensure that there is no lack of adequate refutation of the errors and dangerous doctrines widespread among the Christian people”, Francis, in this letter, nuance the point: he entrusts to the Argentinian theologian the mission of “proving reason for our hope, but not like enemies who point fingers and condemn” as was the case in “other times “. An allusion to the former Congregation of the Holy Office – name, until 1965, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – an institution traditionally responsible for watching over “possible doctrinal errors” in the teachings of pastors or theologians . Perhaps the pope could also refer to more recent decisions. We remember that on March 15, 2021, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith declared the blessing of homosexual couples illicit. A few days later, Francis confided to a visitor his perplexity at the appropriateness of this text.
The change in perspective is considerable. The pope, in Catholicism, is the foundation of the unity of the Church, which implies a common profession of faith: it is inconceivable that he renounce his magisterial authority. But the orientation given to the work of the new prefect of the dicastery for the doctrine of the faith suggests that his mission will be directly ordered to evangelization.
Bishop Victor Manuel Fernández seems particularly cut out for the task. He is considered one of the main feathers of the Argentine pontiff since his election in March 2013. In particular, he would have collaborated in the apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The joy of the Gospel”, 2013) – the program of the pontificate, focused on mission – and to the encyclical “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”, 2016), which opened up the possibility of communion to remarried divorced couples. His writings reveal a constant effort to dialogue with society, and to take into account the spiritual dimension of faith. In 1990, his theology thesis was on the relationship between knowledge and life. An entire program.