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Pope Francis chooses U.S born archbishop as president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America

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Pope Francis meets with Bishop Robert F. Prevost, a Chicago native, during a private audience at the Vatican Feb. 12, 2022. The pope has named Bishop Prevost as the new prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has chosen Chicago-born Archbishop Robert F. Prevost of Chiclayo, Peru, to succeed Canadian Cardinal Ouellet as prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

The Vatican announced Jan. 30 the retirement of Cardinal Ouellet and the appointment of Archbishop Prevost.

The archbishop, who is 67, holds degrees from Villanova University in Pennsylvania and the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and a doctorate from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. An Augustinian friar, he joined the Augustinian mission in Peru in 1985 and largely worked in the country until in 1999 when he was elected head of the Augustinians Chicago-based province. From 2001 to 2013, he served as prior general of the worldwide order. In 2014, Pope Francis named him bishop of Chiclayo, in northern Peru.

As prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, Archbishop Prevost will lead the Vatican body responsible for recommending to the pope candidates to fill the office of bishop in many of the Latin-rite dioceses of the world. Recommendations made by the dicastery are typically approved by the pope. Archbishop Prevost has been a member of the dicastery since November 2020.

He will also oversee the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, established in 1958 by Pope Pius XII to study the church in Latin America, where nearly 40% of the world’s Catholics reside.

Archbishop Prevost speaks English, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese and can read Latin and German.

Cardinal Ouellet has been prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America since 2010. He had submitted his resignation from his curial positions as is required upon reaching the age of 75 in June 2019, but Pope Francis did not accept it.

In recent months, Cardinal Ouellet has been accused of sexual misconduct by two women when he was archbishop of Quebec from 2003 to 2010. Cardinal Ouellet has denied both allegations and sued one of the accusers for defamation in December 2022, seeking $100,000 in damages.

Archbishop Prevost will take up his new roles beginning April 12, 2023.