Rome: A New Prefect at the Dicastery for Bishops

February 04, 2023
Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Bishop Robert Francis Prevost

The Vatican announced on Monday that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Cardinal Ouellet at the age of 78, more than three years after the usual retirement age for bishops. He appointed Bishop Robert Francis Prevost on January 26, 2023 as the next Prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops.

Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Ouellet prefect of the Congregation for Bishops in 2010. A member of the Company of Priests of St. Sulpice (Sulpicians), he was professor of theology, missionary in Colombia, and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian unity before being named Archbishop of Quebec, Primate of Canada, by John Paul II in 2002.

After the cardinal was charged with sexual assault in a civil suit in August 2022, the Vatican conducted a preliminary investigation and concluded that there was insufficient evidence to begin a canonical investigation against Cardinal Ouellet.

The latter, who strongly denies the allegations, has filed a defamation suit in Quebec courts, claiming that he was wrongly accused of sexual assault in the lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Quebec.

The New Prefect

Bishop Robert Francis Prevost, from the United States, will lead the Vatican office in charge of evaluating new members of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Msgr. Bishop Prevost, 67, has been Bishop of the Diocese of Chiclayo in Peru since 2015. He is a member of the Order of St. Augustine and led the Augustinian congregation, as prior general, from Rome for more than a decade after having been a missionary priest for the order in Peru in the 1990s.

Born in Chicago in 1955, Mr. Prevost entered the Augustinian order as a novice at the age of 21. He studied philosophy at Villanova University and theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago before being ordained a priest in Rome in 1982.

Mr. Prevost obtained a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome in 1985.

He contributed to the creation, in 1988, of the formation house of the order in Trujillo, Peru, where he served as prior, director of formation, judicial vicar and director of studies at the seminary. He returned to the United States in 1999 after being elected Prior of the Order's Chicago Province.

After becoming a bishop in Peru, Bishop Prevost was appointed by the Pope as a member of the Dicastery for Bishops and the Dicastery for Clergy.

As Prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, Msgr. Prevost will play a key role in the selection process for diocesan bishops and in the investigation of allegations against bishops.

The final decision to appoint bishops rests with the pope. Usually, the representative of the pope in a country, the apostolic nuncio, transmits the files of the candidates to the Vatican. The Dicastery for Bishops then discusses the nomination and proceeds to a vote. After receiving the recommendations, the pope makes the final decision.

Bishop Prévost will take office on April 12 and will receive the title of archbishop. He will succeed Cardinal Ouellet both as prefect and as the next president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.