Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna, was appointed President of the Episcopal Conference of Italy (CEI) by Pope Francis on May 24, 2022, to succeed Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, who had been head of the CEI since 2017.
The particularity of this conference, with 198 bishops and archbishops - almost twice as many as in France for a smaller population - is that the appointment of its president is “reserved to the Sovereign Pontiff,” according to its statutes in force. The secretary general must be a bishop “appointed by the Sovereign Pontiff on the proposal of the presidency after consultation with the permanent council of the episcopate.”
In 2014, following a proposal from the Pope, the Italian bishops discussed the possibility of electing the president of the CEI, like the other episcopal conferences. But the Italian bishops had finally replied that they did not wish to abandon their privileged relationship with the Bishop of Rome. The solution adopted was that of the “terna”: the bishops agree on three names and leave the final choice to the Pope.
At the 76th IEC Plenary Assembly, which runs May 23-27, the bishops voted a terna. Francis had indicated, in an interview with Corriere della Sera, that he wanted to appoint a cardinal who would be able to “make a good change.”
A will that he would have firmly expressed to the Italian episcopate, of which he is the Primate, during the inaugural session of the assembly. Among the names proposed to the Pope, he chose the Archbishop of Bologna.
According to Famiglia Cristiana, the other names of the terna was those of Cardinal Paolo Lojudice, Archbishop of Siena, and Msgr. Antonino Raspanti, Bishop of Acireale and outgoing Vice President of the CEI.
Considered by the Vaticanists as an ideal representative of the “Bergoglian” bishop, Matteo Zuppi is intimately linked to the Sant’Egidio community. He was one of the first members of this organization committed to interreligious dialogue and peace.
In the 1990s, the future cardinal distinguished himself when he participated in a mediation in Mozambique, before multiplying his trips around the world on the occasion of “prayers for peace” or other mediations. This allowed him to form an important network within the Church as well as outside.
While seeking to remain modest and hidden, he is considered papabile, which will no doubt please the Sant'Egidio community, which, in fact, could hold the reins of the pontificate through its president, Andrea Riccardi.