‘Bicycling cardinal’ is new leader of Italy’s Catholic bishops’ conference

Hannah Brockhaus   By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA

 

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy, in St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 5, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Vatican City, May 24, 2022 / 07:37 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has chosen Cardinal Matteo Zuppi as the next president of the Italian bishops’ conference following a vote on Tuesday.

Zuppi, 66, has a reputation as the “bicycling cardinal” for his propensity to cycle around the northern Italian city of Bologna, which he has led as archbishop since 2015.

He also has strong ties to the influential Sant’Egidio Community.

The cardinal was chosen to lead the Episcopal Conference of Italy (CEI) during the group’s 76th general assembly, taking place in Rome on May 23-27.

Pope Francis had previously asked the Italian bishops to adopt a new statute that would allow them to elect the president themselves, but the bishops preferred to leave the choice to the pope, who as Bishop of Rome is also the Primate of Italy.

Under a compromise arrangement, the bishops presented a list of the three candidates with the most votes to the pope, who could then choose between the three or opt for a different candidate.

Zuppi succeeds 80-year-old Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, who led the bishops’ conference for a five-year term beginning in 2017.

Pope Francis made Zuppi a cardinal in 2019. For years, the Rome native has been listed among the “papabili” — possible future popes — but has made light of the speculation.

Before being transferred to Bologna, Zuppi was an auxiliary bishop of Rome for three years. He was responsible for the city’s historic center area, which includes the Trastevere neighborhood, where the headquarters of the Sant’Egidio Community is located.

Sant’Egidio is a Catholic lay association that aids migrants and promotes ecumenism. It has also helped negotiate reconciliation, including by holding peace talks in countries like Mozambique and South Sudan.


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