ROME – Pope Francis is asking Rome priests and lay Catholics to recommend candidates and qualities for the city's next vicar, a novel initiative that underscores his desire to decentralize church decision-making and involve laity more in consultations.
During a closed-door meeting Friday with Rome priests, Francis asked that suggestions be sent to the diocese by April 12, the newspaper of Italy's bishops' conference reported.
Usually such consultations are restricted to a small cadre of high-ranking churchmen, with the pope making the final decision. But Francis has made a practice of polling ordinary Catholics, most significantly in the run-up to his 2014-2015 meetings on family issues.
The current vicar, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, is two years beyond retirement age. The vicar acts as the de-facto bishop of Rome given the pope's other duties.