VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Saturday named a Spanish Franciscan to be the No. 2 at the Vatican’s office for religious orders, his first appointment to the Vatican bureaucracy badly in need of a shakeup.
Jose Rodriguez, who also was elevated to archbishop, replaces U.S. Archbishop Joseph Tobin, who was transferred from the high-ranking Vatican post to a Midwestern U.S. archdiocese following his efforts to mediate tensions between the Vatican and American nuns, who in the view of theological conservatives had become too secular and political.
Rodriquez, 60, is an outsider to the Vatican administration and comes from the world of religious orders, like Francis who is a Jesuit. Rodriguez is well-thought of among the orders, and last year was elected president of an international association that gathers the heads of the male orders. He has been twice elected head of the Franciscans’ Friars Minor order, one of the main branches of the Franciscan order founded by St. Francis of Assisi, the pope’s namesake.
American nuns have seen the election of a Jesuit pope devoted to the poor as a glimmer of home following a Vatican crackdown under Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI. The nuns were accused of focusing too much on social justice — one of Francis’ priorities — at the expense of other church issues, like abortion.
Rodriguez’ predecessor, Tobin, is now archbishop of Indianapolis, which has fewer than 230,000 parishioners.
One of the important tasks facing Francis is the reform of the scandal-plagued Curia, or Vatican administration, which decides everything from bishop appointments and liturgy, to parish closings and discipline for abusive priests. Benedict commissioned a report on the Curia for papal eyes only following such scandals as VatiLeaks, in which Benedict’s butler leaked the pope’s private papers revealing feuding, corruption and cronyism at the highest levels of administration.