The Pope appoints the Argentine Msgr. Víctor Fernández as the new prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith

July 1, 2023 / 9:02 a.m.

Pope Francis has appointed the theologian and until now Archbishop of La Plata (Argentina), Mons. Víctor Manuel Fernández, the new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), one of the most important positions of the Holy See.

The Holy See Press Office announced this Saturday, July 1, the appointment of who will be the successor of the Spanish Cardinal Luis Franciso Ladaria Ferrer79 years old, who has been in charge of the Dicastery since 2017.

The Argentine Bishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, known as “Tucho”, He is considered the “theologian of Pope Francis” and the anonymous author behind many of the Pontiff’s writings.

Several sources indicate that Pope Francis, who has known Bishop Fernández for decades and whose friendship began in Argentina, entrusted him with the writing of his first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

In this textthe Archbishop cites as a source his own document “Spirituality for active hope”, written for the opening ceremony of the I National Congress of Social Doctrine of the Church in Aparecida (Argentina) in 2011.

Bishop Fernández would have also participated in the drafting of the 2016 apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis Amoris Laetitia.

The new prefect of the DDF was very involved in the two synods on the family in 2014 and 2015 and was also part of the commission for the drafting of the final report of the 2015 synod.

According to indicated CNA -EWTN news agency in English-, when Bishop Fernández was chosen by Bergoglio as rector of the UCA, he had written hundreds of articles and books, among them “Embodied Spiritual Theology” (2004), a book that appeared on the soap opera Argentine “Esperanza Mía”, about an illicit love affair between a priest and a nun.

Another book written by him is “Heal me with my mouth: The art of kissing”. Regarding the book, Bishop Víctor Fernández explained that “this book is not written so much from my own experience, but from the lives of the people who kiss. And in these pages I want to synthesize the popular feeling, what people feel when they think of a kiss, what mortals experience when they kiss”.

“Thus, trying to synthesize the immense wealth of life, these pages came out in favor of the kiss. I hope they help you kiss better, that they motivate you to release the best of your being in a kiss.

The book has disappeared from most of the official lists of works of the Argentine Archbishop.

In addition to the position at the head of the DDF, he will be appointed president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the International Theological Commission.

Subscribe to ACI Press

Receive our most important news by email

The new prefect will take office in mid-September 2023, becoming, at 61, the first Argentine prelate to move to the Vatican by decision of Pope Francis.

In a tweet published on June 30, Bishop Fernández recounted having shared a week of work with the Pope in what he defined as “the new stage of Francisco”.

Bishop Fernández was in Rome to accompany Bishop Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva, the new Archbishop of Buenos Aires (Argentina), at the Solemnity Mass of Saint Peter and Paul, where he received the canopy blessed by Pope Francis.

“He works all day, has hearings and meetings in the morning and in the afternoon. He works longer hours than anyone in the Vatican. They see him tired after 5 hours with dense things but after the nap he was perfect and happy, ”he recounted in his tweet.

Letter from Pope Francis

Pope Francis wrote a letter addressed to the Argentine Archbishop, published today by the Holy See Press Office, in which he defines this new assignment as a “very valuable” task.

The Holy Father recalls that the prefect of the DDF has as its central purpose “guarding the teaching that springs from faith to give reason for our hope, but not as enemies who point out and condemn.”

“The Department that you will preside over in other times came to use immoral methods. They were times where, rather than promoting theological knowledge, possible doctrinal errors were persecuted. What I expect from you is undoubtedly something very different”, writes the Pontiff.

The Holy Father also highlights the “theological charisma” of the Archbishop, his “healthy integration of knowledge” and his ability to “put theological knowledge into dialogue with the life of the holy People of God.”

In the letter, the Pope asks Bishop Fernández to dedicate his personal commitment “more directly to the main purpose of the Dicastery, which is to keep the faith”, since “for disciplinary matters —especially related to the abuse of minors–– a specific Section has recently been created with highly competent professionals”.

The Holy Father also specifies that in this new position he must “increase intelligence and the transmission of faith at the service of evangelization, so that its light is a criterion for understanding the meaning of existence, especially in the face of the questions that are raised the progress of science and the development of society”.

He affirms that the Church “needs to grow in its interpretation of the revealed Word and in its understanding of the truth without this implying the imposition of a single way of expressing it”.

Because the different lines of philosophical, theological and pastoral thought, -clarifies the Holy Father- if they allow themselves to be harmonized by the Spirit in respect and loveThey can also make the Church grow.”

“This harmonious growth will preserve Christian doctrine more effectively than any control mechanism,” he stresses.

For Pope Francis, this position should also encourage “the charisma of theologians and their effort for theological research” and that “they are not content with a desktop theology, with a cold and hard logic that seeks to dominate everything.”

“It will always be true that reality is superior to idea. In this sense, we need Theology to be attentive to a fundamental criterion: to consider inadequate any theological conception that ultimately questions the omnipotence of God and, especially, his mercy.

In addition, the Pope remarks that “we need a thought that knows how to convincingly present a God who loves, who forgives, who saves, who liberates, who promotes people and calls them to fraternal service.”

According to the Holy Father, this occurs “if the announcement focuses on what is essential, which is the most beautiful, the greatest, the most attractive and at the same time the most necessary”.

“You know very well that there is a harmonious order between the truths of our message, where the greatest danger occurs when the secondary issues end up overshadowing the central ones,” he adds.

“Within the horizon of this wealth, your task also implies special care to verify that the documents of the Dicastery itself and of the others have an adequate theological support, are coherent with the rich humus of the perennial teaching of the Church and at the same time welcome the recent Magisterium”, concludes Pope Francis.

Short biography

Bishop Víctor Manuel Fernández was born on July 18, 1962 in Alcira Gigena, province of Córdoba (Argentina). He was ordained a priest on August 15, 1986 for the Diocese of Villa de la Concepción del Río Cuarto (Argentina).

He obtained a degree in Theology with Biblical specialization at the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome) and later a doctorate in Theology at the Faculty of Theology in Buenos Aires.

From 1993 to 2000 he was parish priest of Santa Teresita in Río Cuarto (Córdoba). He was the founder and director of the Lay Training Institute and the “Jesús Buen Pastor” Teacher Training Center in the same city.

In his diocese he has also been a seminary trainer, director for Ecumenism and director of Catechesis.

In 2007 he participated in the V Conference of the Latin American Episcopate (Aparecida) as a priest representing Argentina and later as a member of the drafting group of the final document.

From 2008 to 2009 he was dean of the Faculty of Theology of the Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina and President of the Argentine Theological Society.

From 2009 to 2018 he was rector of the Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina. On May 13, 2013, he was named Archbishop by Pope Francis.

He participated as a member of the 2014 and 2015 Synods of Bishops on the family, in which he was also part of the drafting groups.

At the 2017 Assembly of the Argentine Episcopal Conference, he was elected president of the Episcopal Commission for Faith and Culture (Doctrinal Commission). In June 2018, he assumed the position of Archbishop of La Plata.

He has been a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture and Consultant of the Congregation for Catholic Education. He is currently a member of the Dicastery for Culture and Education.

Between books and scientific articles, it has more than 300 publications, many of them translated into several languages.

These writings show an important biblical basis and a constant effort to make theology dialogue with culture, the evangelizing mission, spirituality and social issues.

The Pope appoints the Argentine Msgr. Víctor Fernández as the new prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith