Ratzinger disciple moving to Milan

Returning as archbishop and cardinal to Milan, the same archdiocese that forty years ago didn’t even want to ordain him a priest, is splendid vindication for Angelo Scola.

If it had been decided collegially, by the senior clergy and the upper echelon of the Milanese laity, his appointment would never have passed muster. Much less if Benedict XVI had listened to his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The meek Joseph Ratzinger was inflexible in this. One name, only one name was on the pope’s mind for the largest and most prestigious diocese in the world. And he held firm against all opposition.

The international theological journal “Communio,” founded in 1972 by Ratzinger, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and Henri De Lubac as a conservative counterweight to the success of the progressive journal “Concilium,” found its first disciples in Scola and Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, and took shape in Fribourg, Switzerland, at the theological faculty where Scola was studying.

Scola had arrived in Fribourg after a tortuous journey, having been ordained a priest at the age of 29 in 1970, not in Milan, his native archdiocese, but by the bishop of Teramo, Abele Conigli, who had hosted him after the Milanese seminaries, where Scola had gone knocking three years before equipped with a philosophy degree from the Catholic University, had shown him the door on account of his activism in Communion and Liberation, a movement about which the archbishop of Milan at the time, Giovanni Colombo, had strong reservations.

Scola was one of the most prominent proteges of the founder of Communion and Liberation, Fr. Luigi Giussani. He was for about ten years the second highest-ranking member of the movement in Milan, before and after the turbulent year of 1968, before and after becoming a priest. In 1973, Fr. Giussani – as he would relate in his memoirs – seriously thought about him as his successor.

In 1991, he was consecrated bishop of Grosseto. But four years later, he was back in Rome as rector of the Lateran, where he founded and directed the “Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family,” with branches all over the world. In 2002, he was appointed patriarch of Venice, and the following year he was made a cardinal. He was added to the list of candidates for pope, but when the conclave came, in 2005, he didn’t campaign for himself – he didn’t even consider it – but for his mentor, Ratzinger.

– Sandro Magister


Cardinal Scola Is Going Back Home. To Milan (www.chiesa)