Mgr Victor Manuel Fernandez, lightning rod cardinal

Mgr Victor Manuel Fernandez, lightning rod cardinal

The man’s ears must be ringing. Since the publication on December 18 of the document on non-ritual blessings (Fiducia supplicans) , its author, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, is criticized by those who oppose Francis. The disavowal of the Churches of Africa – on January 11, they announced their unanimous opposition to these blessings – is an unprecedented snub. This prelate is in fact one of the pope’s pens. He actively participated in the writing of his first exhortation on the joyful proclamation of the Gospel to all, and contributed to the encyclicals Laudato si’ And Amoris laetitia.

Fifteen years ago, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was still only archbishop of Buenos Aires, gave him this advice for difficult times: “Raise your head and don’t let (your detractors) take away your dignity. » At the time, the young Victor Manuel, rector of the Argentine Catholic University, was targeted in Rome by anonymous letters. The “crows” criticized him for his theological sensitivity, forged among the youngest and working-class neighborhoods, too far removed from conservative circles. They were also after his youthful writings which were considered too daring – one wanted to make the students he accompanied think about their emotional life, the other looked at the link between mystical experience and sensuality.

In 2009, the dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, after two years of reflection, ended up validating his appointment in Argentina. Ironically, since July 1, it has now been up to him to direct this venerable institution in Rome. By appointing Archbishop Fernandez, six years to the day, after dismissing the very critical and conservative German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller from this post, Pope Francis activated a centerpiece of his pontificate.

At the heart of crucial issues

The cardinal did not leave his Argentinian diocese of La Plata happily. “I admit to having spent a month biting my nails,” he confided to his followers. He feared having to manage the complex and painful issue of child abuse which is plaguing the Catholic institution. After refusing the proposal the first time, a personal call from the Pope, then hospitalized, finally convinced him. Francis assured Mgr Fernandez that he would not be on the front line in the child crime file, entrusted to an ad hoc structure. Its mission would consist of restoring to the dicastery its primary mission, that of announcing and keeping the faith in today’s world, with the control of doctrines taking second place.

Finding himself at the age of 61 at the heart of the most crucial issues of the Catholic Church is certainly a challenge for this passionate about writing and poetry, from a family of traders in the Argentine province of Cordoba. His destiny was undoubtedly decided in 2007, when Bergoglio called him as an expert to participate in the fifth General Conference of Latin American bishops in Aparecida (Brazil). The final document, to which he was associated, already contained a large part of the intuitions that Pope Francis is now implementing…

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