Archbishop Beniamino Stella, the prefect for the Congregation for Clergy, will be among those members of the episcopacy receiving the red biretta of a cardinal at a consistory in the Vatican next Saturday, February 22nd, Catholic News Agency reported Saturday. It has been circulated among some Vatican watchers that even though the head of the Congregation for Clergy would normally eventually be made a cardinal as a “matter of course,” that Pope Francis chose the 72-year old prelate in part because of his reportedly-strong belief that a member of the Roman Curia should have a strong priestly identity, not merely be a career diplomat or have good diplomatic skills.
In 1960, Stella began studies for the priesthood for his home diocese of Vittorio Veneto in Italy. In 1978, Stella’s former bishop, Cardinal Albino Luciani, would become Pope John Paul I. He was ordained a priest in 1966, and began serving in various posts in the Vatican diplomatic service in 1970. He may be considered an expert on African affairs, having served as Apostolic pro-Nuncio to the Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and Chad. Consecrated a bishop in 1987, Archbishop Stella has also served as the Papal Nuncio to Cuba from 1992 to 1999, where he became beloved by the often-oppressed Cuban presbyterate, and where he oversaw a famous 1998 visit to the Communist island nation by Blessed Pope John Paul II.