Pope chooses successor as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, says again he could finally return home to visit

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Friday named an Argentinian bishop with years of ministry in the country’s prisons as his successor as archbishop of Buenos Aires, a day after saying again that he could finally visit his country origin next year.

Bishop Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva, 55-year-old bishop of Rio Gallegos, will replace outgoing cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli, who turned 75 last year, the Vatican announced.

The appointment was announced a day after Francis repeated that he plans to visit Argentina next year. Francis kept Argentina at bay for the 10 years of his pontificate, apparently unwilling to get caught up in the country’s political polarization. But recently he has signaled an opening to eventually return next year, after a new Argentine president was sworn in following an election in October.

“My idea is to go there next year. We’ll see if it’s possible,” Francis told a student forum.

If he goes, it will fall to García Cuerva to help organize the trip and welcome Francis to his home.

García Cuerva, a canon lawyer, was appointed bishop of Lomas de Zamora in 2017 and moved to Rio Gallegos two years later. He has served as a chaplain in numerous Argentine prisons, caring for inmates, and is currently vice president of an international church commission of prison chaplains, the Vatican said.

Francis served as Archbishop of the Argentine capital from 1998 until he was elected Pope in 2013. As Archbishop, he made it his business to care for inmates and continued that tradition as pope, keeping in touch with the prisoners in Argentina, visiting the prisons during his trips abroad. and often celebrating Maundy Thursday rituals in detention centers.

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