Is Scicluna headed Rome’s way to take up top Vatican post?

Archbishop Msgr. Charles Scicluna’s name is being floated as the future Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in the corridors of Vatican City in Rome, and such a promotion might open the door for a successor to lead the Catholic Church’s Malta Diocese.

On Monday, Pope Francis announced a series of measures that would revamp one of the Vatican’s most significant organisations, the CDF, which is responsible for thefor promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine. The CDF was founded to defend the church from heresy and it is the oldest among the nine congregations of the Roman Curia. Its seat is the Palace of the Holy Office in Rome.

Since 2015, Archbishop Giacomo Morandi, 56, has served as the CDF’s secretary. Leaving the post just a few months short of five years in the appointment, he will now relocate to Italy’s Emilia-Romagna area to take over the Reggio Emilia-Guastalla Diocese. The secretary in the doctrinal office is the Congregation’s number two post.

Pope Francis and Msgr Giacomo Morandi
(Photo: Pontificia Università Gregoriana)

As things stand, Scicluna may succeed Morandi, given that the Maltese archbishop is well-regarded in Vatican circles for his work as Promoter of Justice before being named as Malta’s archbishop in 2015. His work there included numerous high-profile investigations of sexual abuse by clergy members, which Pope Francis directly entrusted to him.

Scicluna had already been assigned to a renewable five-year term as a member of the CDF by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, and since 2018, the Maltese Monsignor has served as one of two adjunct secretaries to the Congregation, a role entrusted to him by Pope Francis.

Archbishop Augustine Di Noia

The other adjunct secretary is Archbishop Augustine Di Noia of the United States, who is 78 years old and has passed the customary curial retirement age. Msgr Scicluna’s age of 62 puts him in a good position to take over for Morandi.

Scicluna, on the other hand, has a strong chance of being named as a possible successor to the CDF’s prefect, replacing 77-year-old Spanish Jesuit Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, who has reached the Vatican’s conventional retirement age of 75.

Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer

Ladaria Ferrer, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, will also have completed the regular five-year tenure for Vatican office leaders by the end of this year, paving the path for his succession. He had himself served as CDF secretary for some 9 years, serving under Cardinal Mueller.

Sant’Uffizio Palace in Rome, seat of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Malta Diocese’s replacement head

Without a doubt, Scicluna’s likely candidacy as CDF prefect will increase his chances of being chosen Cardinal, giving Malta two cardinals with voting rights for the next Pope.

In consequence, Msgr Scicluna’s prospective appointment to one of the two top CDF seats might initiate the process for his replacement in the Malta Diocese.

Scicluna might still be the leader of the church in Malta while serving as prefect or secretary of the CDF, but his increased responsibilities at the Vatican and the necessity to be in Rome more regularly may force him to step down from the Floriana Curia. Scicluna is now supported by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Galea Curmi, however, the latter is not guaranteed to be elevated to replace Scicluna.

Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Galea Curmi
Bishop of Gozo Anton Teuma

Another option is that Scicluna will remain Archbishop even after his new post in Rome until the transition procedure for his successor is finished. It would be comparable to the procedure that saw then-Gozo Bishop Mario Grech keep his post on the sister island before taking over as secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, with Anton Teuma succeeding him as Bishop of Gozo. Grech was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2020.

Cardinal Mario Grech