By Charles Igwe
In a heartfelt meeting held on Tuesday morning, Pope Francis extended his profound gratitude to Cardinal Luis Ladaria for his dedicated service as the head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith over the past six years.
The Vatican announced that Pope Francis paid a visit to the dicastery shortly after 9 a.m. on September 5, marking the occasion to personally convey his appreciation. Following this meeting, Pope Francis took the opportunity to greet other officials of the dicastery, which included Cardinal Ladaria, who is 79 years old.
On July 1, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández of Argentina as Cardinal Ladaria’s successor as the chief of doctrine. Archbishop Fernández, aged 61, is slated to assume his new responsibilities on September 11.
Cardinal Ladaria, a distinguished Spanish theologian, took on the role of prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, previously known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on July 1, 2017, following the tenure of German Cardinal Gerhard Müller. He had previously served as the secretary of the Vatican’s doctrine office since 2008.
A Jesuit member since 1966, Cardinal Ladaria earned a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1975. His academic journey included professorships in dogmatic theology at both the Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Additionally, he served as vice rector of the Gregorian from 1986 to 1994.
During his leadership at the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ladaria concurrently held the roles of president of the International Theological Commission and the Pontifical Biblical Commission. These roles will now be entrusted to Archbishop Fernández.
Cardinal Ladaria received the esteemed title of cardinal during a consistory in June 2018.
Archbishop Fernández, renowned for his extensive writing and close collaboration with Pope Francis, previously served as the archbishop of La Plata, Argentina, from 2018 until his appointment as the head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith on July 1. Furthermore, he held the position of rector at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina from 2009 to 2018.
In a letter addressed to Archbishop Fernández, Pope Francis entrusted him with the pivotal mission of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, underscoring its fundamental purpose of “guarding the faith.” Pope Francis emphasized the importance of this mission and expressed his hope for the dicastery to prioritize it over engaging in the correction of “doctrinal errors” at the expense of “promoting theological knowledge.” The appointment signals a significant responsibility for Archbishop Fernández as he prepares to lead the dicastery.