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BUENOS AIRES (LifeSiteNews) –– Pope Francis has appointed a notably heterodox bishop to the pope’s former archdiocesan see of Buenos Aires, with the new 55-year-old archbishop replacing the cardinal who succeeded Francis.

In its daily bulletin May 26, the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis had appointed Bishop Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva as the new Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. García Cuerva succeeds Cardinal Mario Poli, who tendered his mandatory age-related resignation to the pope last year, and who had led the archdiocese since Francis ascended to the papacy in 2013.

García Cuerva only recently turned 55, and was consecrated a bishop in 2017. He was appointed to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops in 2021, in a move which further highlighted to Vatican observers the direction of Francis’ pontificate.

READ: Pope names leftist bishop to Vatican Congregation for Bishops

As LifeSite’s Jeanne Smits noted at the time, García Cuerva has styled himself as “the most Bergoglian bishop in Argentina.” “I am a fan of Pope Francis, perhaps the most bergoglioanist of the Argentinian bishops,” news reports wrote in 2020.

García Cuerva is notable due to his style of “accompaniment” which mirrors that of Francis, in that he is very open to trans-sexual and homosexual individuals. As a priest, García Cuerva performed a ceremony which many of his brother priests in the province did not wish to do – namely the baptism of twins born from a surrogate mother, with the twins living with two homosexuals, one of whom had undergone a full medical procedure to appear as a woman.

The two men, notable personalities in the public and media sphere, were “Florencia” Trinidad or “Flor de la V” (born Roberto Carlos Trinidad) and Pablo Goycochea, whom Roberto “married” in 2010 after having a full surgical “transition.”

As Smits noted, García Cuerva’s decision to proceed with the ceremony came in the face of numerous other priests refusing to do so, especially since Trinidad – now living as a woman – was baptized a Catholic. García Cuerva also gave Holy Communion to the two homosexuals during the Mass.

His public approbation of the two men’s lifestyle was widely reported by local media, with García Cuerva quoted as saying “the Church cannot say no to the baptism of the boys.”

Images of the event spread swiftly in the press, and one such photo was used as the cover image of the Gente magazine in August 2012.

Such a record did not prevent Francis from raising García Cuerva to the episcopate in 2017, before appointing him to the Congregation for Bishops in 2021.

García Cuerva’s appointment to the see of Buenos Aires reportedly comes as a surprise, hinting at a possible direct intervention by Francis on behalf of the bishop. According to La Nacion’s Vatican correspondent, the announcement “came as a surprise because his name was not among those on the shortlist.”

La Nacion noted that “a surprise appointment was also considered very likely, a characteristic very typical of Francis’ style, as it happened in other appointments of archbishops in important sees, such as Tucumán and Córdoba, among others.”

García Cuerva could well have even more international recognition in upcoming months, with Francis increasingly suggesting that he might visit his native Argentina in the coming year. Francis’ 10-year pontificate has been marked by a notable refusal to visit Argentina, despite making over 40 international trips as pope.

Observers have speculated as to why he refuses to return home: the pope has often remarked that the timing has not been right, but others have suggested that he would not be made welcome in the see he led for 15 years.

The subject was often raised in the numerous interviews Francis gave to mark his decade on the papal throne, with Francis giving more suggestive hints that a trip might soon be in the cards. Then, on May 25, while speaking to a group of Latin-American schoolchildren who are part of a network he was closely linked with, Francis confirmed a trip might take place next year: “My idea is to go next year, let’s see if we can.”

Should such visit take place, García Cuerva – as “perhaps the most bergoglioanist of the Argentinian bishops” – would likely be a key ally for the pope, and to ensure a warm welcome for the controversial pontiff.