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Pope Benedict has named Mumbai's Cardinal Ivan Dias as Prefect of the Congregation for Evangelisation, making him the first Asian to head the top Vatican office.

Catholic World News reports that the widely anticipated appointment, announced on 20 May came in tandem with the appointment of the current prefect, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, as Archbishop of Naples.

Cardinal Michele Giordano of Naples had submitted his resignation last September, upon reaching the canonical retirement age of 75.

Cardinal Dias, the current Archbishop of Bombay, was in Rome when the announcement was made. He had led the procession down the Via della Conciliazione on 13 May, celebrating the anniversary of the first apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

The Church in India is "proud of Cardinal Ivan Dias. We wish him all the best in his new assignment," Catholic Bishops Conference India spokesperson Fr Babu Joseph said while announcing the news at the weekend.

The Indian Cardinal had regularly been named as the prelate most likely to succeed Cardinal Sepe at the Congregation for Evangelisation. Well known both in Rome and in the Third World, the 70-year-old Cardinal Dias was occasionally listed among the papabile entering the conclave last April.

The appointment of a prominent Asian cardinal as head of the Congregation for Evangelisation - popularly known around Rome as Propaganda Fide - bears testimony to the commitment of Benedict XVI to make evangelisation in Asia a high priority.

The Congregation has responsibility for the Church's efforts in missionary territory, which includes most of the world's most populous continent.

Born into a pious Catholic family living just outside Bombay (now Mumbai), Cardinal Dias was ordained as a Salesian priest in December 1958.

After parish work in Bombay he was sent to Rome to study canon law, and later served in the Vatican diplomatic corps for 30 years before being named Archbishop of Bombay in 1996.

A polyglot who is fluent in 8 languages, he served in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Indonesia, and Madagascar; then worked in the Vatican bureau handling relations with the Soviet Union, China, and Vietnam; assigned abroad again, he was papal nuncio in Ghana, Togo, Benin, South Korea, and Albania.

Returning to his native Bombay as archbishop, Cardinal Dias proved both popular and energetic, despite a significant health problem. And his post in India has forced him to grapple with difficult issues of interreligious dialogue, defending the Christian minority against Hindu fundamentalism.

As prefect of the Congregation for Evangelisation, Cardinal Dias will supervise 39 per cent of the world's Catholic dioceses. He is the second prefect named by Pope Benedict to head a Vatican congregation.

The first was Cardinal William Levada, appointed in May 2005 to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, filling the post that the Pope himself previously occupied.


SOURCE
Profile: Cardinal Dias, new head of Propaganda Fide (Catholic World News 22/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Roman Curia (catholic-hierarchy.org)

ARCHIVE
Roman Curia restructured (CathNews 13/3/06)
Pope begins Vatican Curia shake-up (CathNews 16/2/06)
Age of Vatican officials fuels talk of Curia overhaul (CathNews 31/8/05)

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23 May 2006