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Pope Francis July 2023.JPG
World News

Pope appoints Argentine bishop to top Vatican role looking after doctrine

by Reuters Journalist

Pope Francis has named an Argentine theologian and prolific author who decades ago wrote a book on the healing properties of kissing to be the Catholic Church's new doctrinal chief, one of the Vatican's top posts.

A Vatican statement on Saturday said Francis had chosen fellow Argentine Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez to be the head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF).

The DDF, modern-day successor of the notorious Inquisition which persecuted heretics, is tasked with promoting and safeguarding doctrine on faith and morals. It monitors theological work to make sure it adheres to Church doctrine and issues guidance, clarifications, and corrections.

In an apparent reference to the Inquisition, known for torture and executions in Medieval times, Francis said in a letter to Fernandez that in the past the department had used "immoral methods" and itself made doctrinal mistakes.

The powerful post of DDF prefect was held by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for 23 years before he became Pope Benedict in 2005.

Fernandez, 60, has written about 300 books and articles and is a past rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, where he was also dean of its theology department.

In 1995, as a 33-year-old priest, he wrote a book called "Heal Me With Your Mouth - The Art of Kissing," which was published in English in 2017. 

He writes in the introduction "that this book was not written based on my own experience, but based on the lives of people who kiss" and that he also wanted to focus on what poets had written about kissing.

"The kiss is a meeting of the two in a moment in which there is nothing else besides them, and nothing else matters," Fernandez wrote in the book.

The Vatican did not mention the book in the partial list of his publications it issued with the appointment announcement.

The prefect of the DDF is traditionally a cardinal, meaning Francis is likely to raise Fernandez to that rank sometime after he takes up his new post in September.

Francis succeeds Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria, a Spanish Jesuit, who is at the end of his mandate.

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