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Cdl-designate Aguiar at a World Youth Day 2023 press conferenceDicastery for Laity, Family, and Life

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Citing Vatican sources, a respected Italian Catholic blog has reported that the controversial organizer of World Youth Day is set to take over as prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.

The blog Messa in Latino (MiL) has reported that Cardinal-designate Américo Manuel Alves Aguiar will soon be appointed as Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life established by Pope Francis in September 2016

Citing sources “in the highest place,” MiL wrote that the rumors surrounding Aguiar’s move to the Dicastery “have become more insistent.” These swirled particularly energetically after Aguiar – the current auxiliary bishop of Lisbon – was not chosen by Pope Francis to become the new Patriarch of Lisbon, fueling speculation that the bishop might be earmarked for a Vatican post. On August 10, the Pope appointed Bishop Rui Manuel Sousa Valério as new patriarch of Lisbon; he had formerly been the bishop for Portugal’s military.

The Dicastery combined the tasks of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family. Since its inception, it has been led by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, an American cardinal with strong links to disgraced ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Farrell has continued to enjoy marked favor from Pope Francis.

Aguiar himself has certainly enjoyed particular and somewhat unprecedented favor from Pope Francis. Named in the upcoming September consistory of cardinals, the auxiliary bishop will be the second-youngest cardinal elector in the college and the fourth Portuguese cardinal created by Pope Francis.

He has only been a bishop for four years. The 49-year-old prelate previously served as a council member of his local Socialist Party between 1994 and 1997.

Aguiar also chaired the World Youth Day (WYD) organizing committee, which operates under the umbrella of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.

Shortly before WYD, Aguiar sparked controversy when he cited Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti and downplayed conversion efforts as a part of the international gathering of youth. He told media that the gathering was to chiefly promote fraternity: 

Enjoy being with each other. And in the end, we joined hands and said ‘I think differently, I feel differently, I organize my life differently but we are brothers and we are going to build the future together.’ This is the main message of the encounter with the living Christ that the Pope wants to offer young people. We don’t want to convert people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that. Absolutely!

He subsequently attempted to clarify that the WYD goal was to invite “all young people to meet each other, to meet with the pope and to experience the living Christ.” “I don’t see WYD as an opportunity for active proselytism, as an event to try and convert everyone who happens to come along,” he stated.

READ: World Youth Day organizer says Fr. James Martin not on official schedule, despite contrary evidence

The Pillar reported in mid July that a wide-ranging variety of priests from the Patriarchate of Lisbon – “from young and more conservative-leaning to older and more liberal” – were opposed to Aguiar’s possible appointment to lead the Patriarchate. The priests cited Aguiar’s lack of pastoral experience and his “supposedly shallow spirituality.”

Should he indeed be appointed to lead the Dicastery, Aguiar will have charge of the Dicastery’s task of “promotion of life and the apostolate of the lay faithful, for the pastoral care of the young, the family and its mission, following God’s plan and for the protection and support of human life.”

Decidedly outward-looking in its regular operations, the Dicastery reflects its youth by being one of the most modern of the Vatican’s curial bodies in its presentation: its website and resources are presented in a multitude of languages and the use of social media is a key theme of operations – both of which are moderately rare for the Vatican.

But Aguiar’s record on promoting Catholicism has faced other strong criticism. Earlier this year, a collective of Polish parents wrote to the auxiliary bishop to request that the WYD website remove its promotion of the United Nations’ pro-abortion 2030 agenda: 

We are writing to request the removal of the Agenda 2030, with the Sustainable Development Goals (the “Goals”) as a guiding element, from the WYD programme, the withdrawal of the partnership with GTI (and the removal of the links to the GTI websites) and the restoration of the religious character of WYD, without the inclusion of any political agendas and the promotion of other religions (Buddhism) through the GTI websites.

They warned of a “serious risk” that promoting such ideologies would have a “negative impact” on WYD participants. 

READ: Catholic parents seek answers to why World Youth Day is promoting UN’s pro-abortion 2030 Agenda  

The WYD organizers had published a “Sustainability Commitment” letter on the official website, noting how the events had as its “mission” the goal of building “upon the sustainability goals adopted globally,” as articulated in “the Laudato si’ Goals put forward by the Vatican, as well as the United Nations 2030 Agenda (SDGs).”

The WYD website subsequently amended the letter to clarify that its endorsement of the agenda is only being done in accordance with the “orientations of the Holy See.” As LifeSiteNews and numerous other pro-life organizations have reported, the 2030 Agenda and the U.N’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are fundamentally pro-abortion, pro-contraception and pro-population control.

Yet while the WYD website’s letter was slightly amended, Aguiar did not satisfy the concerns expressed by the Polish parents. The latter attested to LifeSite that one hour after contacting Aguiar and Cardinal Farrell, they received what seemed to be a “copy and paste” reply from Aguiar that failed to address any of the concerns they raised.

Subsequent communication with the two prelates was left unanswered. The group has since sent another letter to the bishop and to Farrell seeking a more substantive answer. It has yet to receive a reply.