VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Tuesday named a bishop in his own image as the new head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Matteo Juppe, as the Italian Catholic Church is under pressure to deal with a legacy of clerical sexual harassment with an independent inquiry. .
The Italian Catholic Church is one of the few in Western Europe that has not opened its archives to independent researchers in recent decades to establish opportunities for abuse and cover-up. Such reports from Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and France, for example, show systemic problems that allow thousands of children to be abused by Catholic priests, whether by government order, parliamentary inquiry, or church initiation. Churches in Spain and Portugal recently agreed to launch a similar investigation.
But the Italian church is still surviving, with advocacy groups and the media resisting demands to pursue the case, although conference officials said they were awaiting the appointment of a new president earlier this month before announcing anything.
Jupiter’s outgoing predecessor, Cardinal Gualteiro Bassetti, made general mention of the issue in his final speech on Tuesday but made no promises.
“We reaffirm our commitment to protecting minors and preventing abuse,” he told his brother Bishop. “We want to promote a better understanding of the phenomenon of abuse and to make security and prevention measures more efficient,” he said without elaborating.
Unlike other countries, where the bishops themselves elect the president of their conference, the pope elects the president of the Italian conference because he is also the bishop of Rome. In this case, Francis has chosen from three names suggested by the bishops.