Many newspapers and agencies (eg. here and here and here) are carrying the Reuters report about a comment made by Cardinal Bertone to the Italian newspaper “La Stampa” in which he reportedly said that the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue will return to being “a dicastery in its own right, whereas previously it had been merged with the Pontifical Council for Culture.”
That is perhaps a bit of a beat-up–and probably Cardinal Bertone himself is to blame because of the way in which he worded his comments (although there has been no publication of the entire interview in English, so it is hard to know the context in which he was speaking). As Rocco Palmo correctly notes,
the councils [for Interreligious Dialogue and Culture respectively] were never “downgraded,” but simply shared a head; both maintained separate officials and staffs. Their status and competencies continued unchanged.
I am skeptical that Archbishop Fitzgerald will be returned to the role. Contrary to popular accounts, his appointment as papal nuncio to Egypt was not an “exile” but rather a case of fitting the best person for the job, since fluent Arabic is a sine qua non for the position and Cairo is home to the most authorative seat of Islamic teaching–the Al-Ahzar University.
But Cardinal Poupard (who currently wears both hats as president of both Pontifical Councils) is past retirement age and will need replacing soon. His appointment to both positions was only ever seen as a stop-gap measure to give time to find a proper direction for the presidency of both Councils. Papa Benny did the same with the Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and the Council for Justice and Peace shared the same president, Cardinal Stephen Hamao. The Pope has not been rushing about in a panic chaning the deck-chairs of the Holy See since his election to the See of Peter.
So is this a news story? Has the Bark of Peter done a complete 180 degree turn? Or is it simply a case of “steady as she goes”? My guess is that it is the latter.