Pope Francis has appointed 66-year-old Cardinal Matteo Zuppi as the new President of the Italian Bishops' Conference.

Zuppi, who has been Archbishop of Bologna in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna since 2015 and was appointed to the College of Cardinals by Francis in 2019, succeeds 80-year-old Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, who was no longer available for reasons of age.

Matthias Rub

Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta based in Rome.

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The Italian bishops' conference does not elect its chairman or the general secretary itself, but proposes three candidates each for the leadership positions to the pope - in his capacity as bishop of Rome and as "primate of Italy".

Zuppi was Pope Francis' declared candidate of choice.

He is considered a representative of the progressive wing among the 220 bishops in Italy.

Zuppi comes from Rome and is one of the founding members of the lay community of Sant'Egidio, with which he is still closely connected today.

For many years he was pastor in the parish of Santa Maria in the Roman district of Trastevere, which was overseen by Sant'Egidio.

Synodal process to be advanced

Along with Andrea Riccardi, the founding chairman of the community, Zuppi has also acted as a mediator in conflict zones, particularly in Mozambique, where he helped negotiate the 1992 peace agreement ending the civil war with Riccardi.

Benedict XVI

appointed Zuppi auxiliary bishop in Rome in 2012.

Three years later, Francis made him the successor to Bologna's longtime Archbishop, the conservative Cardinal Carlo Caffarra.

One of Zuppi's biggest challenges is the overdue processing of the abuse scandal in Italy.

So far, the Italian bishops' conference has persistently refused to set up an independent investigative commission based on the model of other European countries.

In addition, the synodal process is to be advanced and the number of dioceses, currently 220, is to be reduced to an internationally customary level.