Pope Francis on Thursday appointed the archbishop of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, a member of the Congregation for Bishops.
Pope Francis also named Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha, archbishop of São Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, a member of the same 25-member Vatican congregation.
As a member, Cardinal Tobin joins another American, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., was also a member of the Congregation for Bishops until aging out in November 2020 at the age of 80.
The Congregation for Bishops is responsible for overseeing the selection and appointment of bishops. It also deals with the erection and suppression of dioceses, oversight of bishops, and the preparation for and response to bishops’ ad limina visits to Rome.
The prefect of the Congregation for Bishops is Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who turned 76 last June and is one of several cardinals of retirement age leading curial departments expected to soon be replaced by Pope Francis.
Sources in Rome who spoke recently to CNA on background said that Pope Francis may be considering Cupich to replace Ouellet. Another possible replacement, according to sources, is another member of the Congregation of Bishops: Chicago-born Augustinian missionary Bishop Robert Francis Prevost.
Prevost was made one of the few non-cardinal members of the Congregation for Bishops in November 2020. Of French and Spanish descent, he spent a significant amount of his pastoral life in the Northern Peruvian Andes before being appointed Bishop of Chiclayo, Peru, by Pope Francis in 2015.
Prevost had a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican on March 1, further propelling speculation that he could be headed from Peru to Rome.
The prefect of the Congregation for Bishops does not have unlimited power in episcopal appointments, but plays a significant role in the process, part of which includes meeting with the pope most Saturdays….
The above comes from a March 4 story on the site of the Catholic News Agency.