June 30, 2010 7:42 a.m.
VATICAN CITY – The Vatican has promoted Canada’s highest-ranking Catholic priest despite recent controversy over his response to the church sex-abuse scandal.
Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet has been named chief of the Vatican’s powerful Congregations for Bishops, which vets bishop appointments around the world.
Sixty-six year old Ouellet is the Archbishop of Quebec and the Roman Catholic Primate of Canada, the church’s top official in the country.
Earlier this month, a victims’ group said Ouellet had refused to apologize for crimes committed within the church.
The L’Association des Victimes de Pretres, a group that helps victims of sexually abusive priests in Quebec, had said Ouellet’s then-rumoured promotion would be unmerited.
Ouellet succeeds 76-year-old Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who has retired after nearly a decade in the post.
Ouellet’s promotion is part of a shuffle of the Vatican’s top positions in what is being seen as an acknowledgment that efforts to reinvigorate Christianity in Europe need a boost.
The announcement also says Monsignor Rino Fisichella has been tapped to head a new Vatican office to fight secularization and re-evangelize the West. Fisichella has been head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Vatican’s top bioethics official.
Ouellet was recently at the centre of controversy over comments he made about abortion being an unjustifiable moral crime, even in rape cases.
The remark was criticized by feminist groups and various politicians in Ottawa and Quebec.
– With files from The Associated Press.