VATICAN CITY — Last week, Pope Francis made his first major appointment to the Roman Curia, naming General Minister Fr. José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM, secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, formerly known as the Congregation for Religious. He takes the place of U.S. archbishop Joseph Tobin, former general of the Redemptorists, who was assigned the position in August 2010.
Fr. José, 59, was also named the titular archbishop of Bellicastrum. His ordination as archbishop is scheduled for May 18 in the Basilica of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
The new appointment leaves the Order of Friars Minor without its top leader. Since the April 6 appointment, General Vicar Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, is serving as an interim leader in accordance with procedures stated in the Order’s General Constitutions. On May 22, the Order’s definitorium, along with the presidents and vice presidents of the 15 OFM conferences, will elect a new general minister. The friar who is selected will serve for the remainder of Fr. José’s term, which ends in 2015. Fr. José began serving as general minister in 2003 and was in the middle of his second consecutive term.
Fr. José’s New Ministry
“Right now I feel in my heart divided feelings — joy and sadness,” Fr. José said in his final letter to the Order, distributed on April 6. “Joy, for the Lord is trusting me and for the Holy Father, my ‘Lord Pope’ Francis. I feel a great responsibility to serve the religious and consecrated life; also, this is a sign of confidence in me and in the Order. Sadness, because I will miss you, my dear brothers. I will miss your wise counsel and your outstretched hand in need.”
He continued: “I will keep working for the life I love, because it is mine — religious life and, therefore, also the Franciscan life. Consider me at your service.”
Fr. José is now the second highest official in the Vatican congregation that oversees the life and work of consecrated men and women in religious orders and communities worldwide. He will work closely with Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, of Brazil, who has led the office since January 2011.
As part of his new ministry, Fr. José is expected to help facilitate better relations between American religious women and the Vatican. Last April, the CDF released a critical doctrinal assessment of American religious women, accusing them of undermining Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality, among other things. Soon after, Holy Name Province and the American OFM provinces released a letter expressing their support for the United States Catholic sisters.
Sources inside the Vatican say that by choosing Fr. José, Pope Francis “has clearly opted for a different, more Gospel-inspired approach to consecrated life in general, and, also, to help overcome the ongoing, painful tensions with the American religious women,” according to Vatican Insider.
Fr. José, who met with Pope Francis on April 8, asks that his brothers remember him in the Eucharist and in their prayers.
Provincial Administration’s Reactions
“It was with great joy that I received the news of the choice of our brother José Carballo as the new archbishop and secretary of the Congregation for the Religious in the Vatican,” said Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM,this weekend. “I have known José as my superior, as a colleague, and as a friend for eight years. I worked closely with him during my term as president of the English-speaking Conference and as acting general definitor of the Order during the illness of General Definitor Fr. Finian McGinn, OFM.
“I believe his appointment is good news for the men and women religious of the world,” John continued. “On behalf of the friars of Holy Name Province, I congratulate him and ask God’s blessing on him.”
Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, also congratulated Fr. José on his appointment.
“We are honored greatly by Fr. José’s appointment to this responsible position,” Dominic said in a letter emailed to friars yesterday. “The wealth of experience he has had, leading a worldwide Order of 15,000 members since 2003, plus his connections with so many women Franciscan religious, should serve him well in his new position.”
The April issue of Fraternitas, newsletter of the General Curia, contains a reprint of Fr. José’s Easter message to the Order. The publication — which has a new design and a new editor — also includes news about recent events in OFM provinces, as well as the now-defunct schedule of Fr. José’s commitments.
In December, Fr. José came to America for a meeting with John, Dominic and the leaders of all seven OFM provinces in the United States.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
Editors note: More information about Fr. José’s life and ministry can be found on the Order’s website.