He has only been at the Vatican for four months, but Brazilian Archbishop Joao Braz de Aviz (pictured) is already getting good reviews. As the head of the Vatican office that oversees the world's religious orders, the 64-year-old archbishop inherited an inbox full of tensions and an assignment that in some ways resembled a battleground, reports the Catholic News Service.
In addition to wrapping up a contentious apostolic visitation of women's religious orders in the United States, he faced the challenge of rebuilding trust and channels of communication with the heads of religious orders worldwide.
Archbishop Aviz replaced Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rode, who believed that modern religious orders were in a crisis caused in part by the adoption of a secularist mentality and the abandonment of traditional practices. Cardinal Rode said many religious had misunderstood the Second Vatican Council, and he faulted women's orders for adopting a "feminist" spirit.
When Pope Benedict XVI named Archbishop Aviz as the new prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the choice surprised many religious superiors. Surprise has now turned to optimism about the future.
"The windows have been opened to fresh approaches. I definitely feel there's a new hope for building deeper and better relationships between (the Vatican congregation) and men and women religious," said US Sister Mary Lou Wirtz, president of the International Union of Superiors General.
Sister Wirtz, superior general of the Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, said Archbishop Aviz and Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, secretary of the Vatican congregation, had met recently with leading superiors of religious orders in Rome to talk about problems and prospects for the future.
"It was a very open and good sharing. We really felt their eagerness to build bridges with religious men and women and to rebuild the trust -- especially with the sisters in the United States following the visitation, and all the feelings that surrounded that and the way it happened," Sister Wirtz said in an interview June 2.
FULL STORY Calming the waters: New Vatican official tries different approach (CNS)