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Vatican Connections: A Historic Week

February 15, 2013
In the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise announcement on Monday, this week’s Vatican Connections is dedicated to the unfolding events in Rome. The papal resignation is unchartered territory in many ways: the last pope who resigned was Gregory XII in 1415.
This week’s Vatican Connections features reactions from the Cardinals who were in the room, listening to Benedict XVI’s historic announcement, and information on what happens next.
To a certain extent, life must continue as normally as possibly at the Vatican until the interregnum officially begins. Pope Benedict XVI met with the parish priests of Rome, an annual appointment that was on his docket long before he announced his resignation. He did not prepare a speech in advance. Instead he decided to "chat" with the priests about his experiences at the Second Vatican Council. News.va has a full transcription of that memorable address.
We have begun to see Vatican life returning to normal Friday with the announcement of a new director for the Vatican Bank. The announcement didn’t make it in time to be included in this week’s Vatican Connections, but here is what we know:
The commission of Cardinals who oversee the Institute for World of Religion, (IOR) appointed Ernst Von Freyberg as the new director of the Institute.
A head hunting firm was used to help the commission of cardinals identify possible candidates for the positions and evaluate their suitability. The commission was presented with a list of 40 potential candidates which they narrowed down to six. Those six candidates went through a series of face to face interviews with the commission. The final decision was made February 14 and presented to IOR’s board of directors, who agreed on Von Freyberg. The final name was then presented to Pope Benedict who spent six months carefully going through the professional and moral background of the candidates.
In a communiqué released February 15 the Holy See said Pope Benedict XVI followed the process closely and approved the decision to appoint von Freyberg.
Von Freyburg is a lawyer from Germany who serves as Chairman of the German shipbuilding company Blohm + Voss.
The German shipbuilder is part of a consortium that builds warships for the German Navy. Vatican spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi answered journalists question about whether this is in conflict with Catholic values saying, working in the shipbuilding industry does not disqualify a competent candidate, especially when that person is heavily involved with charity and has a “notable human, Christian sensibility.”
Von Freyberg is an active member of the Knights of Malta, a lay Catholic religious order that offers free medical care and other services around the world. He founded an organization that supports an elementary school in Frankfurt and various Catholic organizations in France, Germany and Austria. He is also co-leader of an organization in the Archdiocese of Berlin that organizes pilgrimages to Lourdes.
The IOR has been without a director since May 2012 when then-director Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was fired by the institute’s board of directors for “incompetence.”
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