From “little ratzinger” to pioneer of change in spain

From 'little ratzinger' to pioneer of change in spain

On this 15. October, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, Archbishop of Valencia, celebrates his 75th birthday. Birthday. From tireless defender of conservative values, he has become a pillar of support for Pope Francis' reform plans.

One could make it easy for oneself and simply attach the label "conservative church hardliner" to Antonio Canizares Llovera. Corresponding evidence is abundant in the life and work of the pugnacious cardinal. But they do not paint the full picture. For the Spaniard, who on 15. The bishop of Granada, who will turn 75 on October 7, has recently demonstrated an impressive ability to change.

Priestly ordination in Valencia

It all began near the city of which he has been archbishop since 2014: Valencia. Born in 1945 in the province of the same name, he was ordained priest there at the age of 24. A steep career followed. Doctorate in Theology at the Pontifical University of Salamanca, Profer of Fundamental Theology. 1985 Canizares became bishop secretary of the Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith in Spain. During this time, he earned the nickname "the little Ratzinger" because of his theological proximity to the prefect of the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Canizares himself never made a secret of his traditional views. In an interview a few years ago, the catechism expert spoke of a "God-given harmony with the thinking of then-Cardinal Ratzinger". Like him, he is "searching for the truth that makes us free, a truth that comes to us through tradition.

Career in the Church

This inner bond spread all the way to Rome and even remained with Pope John Paul II. not hidden. In 1992, he appointed the equally gifted and loyal clergyman as Bishop of Avila. A few years later came the promotion to archbishop of Granada. In 2002, Canizares amed the title of "Primate of Spain" along with the leadership of the Archdiocese of Toledo.

As such he proved that he can verbally not only with the foil, but gladly also with the saber to tighten. In public disputes, the archbishop distinguished himself as a bitter opponent of the socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on family policy ies. He accused the latter's government of "endangering democracy with radical laicism".

The Spanish Bishops' Conference elected its opinionated primate as vice-president in 2005, and a year later, under Benedict XVI, he was elected president of the Spanish Bishops' Conference. The admission to the College of Cardinals. The German pope promoted "the little Ratzinger" continuously, then in 2008 the career highlight: Canizares was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Career crumbling under Pope Francis

He also set conservative accents in this function. The friend of the ancient rite repeatedly urged the faithful to pay even greater attention to the sanctity of worship. Unauthorized changes would have to be refrained from. In a circular published in 2014, he stipulated that the exchange of the greeting of peace should take place in a more liturgically sober manner. At the church base, this caused some resentment.

It was one of the last decisions Canizares was allowed to make as Curia Prefect. Pope Francis quickly signaled that he considered the services of the "Ratzingerian" dispensable. The views of the traditionalist did not match those of the reform-minded Argentinean.

The man from Valencia wore the career bend with a catch. Back in Spain, he first slipped into his former role: that of the eloquent defender of old family values. In a sensational homily, he castigated "gender ideology" and the negative influence of a "gay empire". When homosexual associations and other political groups filed criminal charges, the cardinal replied unimpressed: "They will not silence me." He will continue to tell the truth "even if they crucify me".

180-degree turnaround in view of EU refugee policy

Last but not least, a pointed criticism of the EU's refugee policy caused a great deal of indignation. "The invasion of immigrants" could prove to be a "Trojan horse," the clergyman said at the end of 2015. One must astutely question who is behind all this. "Do people really come because they are persecuted?", asked Canizares. In his opinion, this applies "only to very few".

The reactions followed promptly. Prominent politicians berated the former curia leader as a racist and demanded his immediate resignation. This time the headwind showed effect. Canizares not only corrected his course, but also made a 180-degree turn – quite unusual for set clerics.

"Europe must open the gates to those looking for help to survive," is now his slogan. It did not remain with pleasing words. Two years ago, the shepherd set up a special staff to organize the reception of hundreds of migrants from aboard the rescue ship "Aquarius" in Valencia. The pope was "touched" in the face of so much helpfulness. He received the cardinal at the Vatican to express his appreciation.

Since then, Canizares has regained influence. Spanish journalists now see him as an important pillar in the restructuring of the church hierarchy in the Iberian kingdom pushed by Francis. The "little Ratzinger" is therefore still far from being a case for the old age home.

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Christina Cherry
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