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CHURCH/ B16's Epiphany Gifts: Rings, Miters and Croziers

Continuing a John Paul II tradition he was initially loath to pick up, this morning again saw the Pope mark Epiphany by ordaining four new bishops. ROCCO PALMO comments on this event

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Continuing a JPII tradition he was initially loath to pick up, this morning again saw the Pope mark Epiphany by ordaining a new crop of bishops, the crop of four headlined by the elevation of his longtime personal secretary, now Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who Benedict XVI has made his ultimate gatekeeper by naming the 56 year-old German as prefect of the Papal Household.

Two of the other new archbishops – the Nigerian Fortunatus Nwachukwu, 52, and the Genovese Nicolas Thevenin, 54 – will respectively serve as papal nuncio in Nicaragua and Guatemala, while the Italian Angelo Vincenzo Zani, 62, will be #2 of a newly slimmed-down Congregation for Catholic Education, whose key function of overseeing the global church's seminaries was transferred to the Congregation for the Clergy at the close of October's Synod for the New Evangelization.

The appointment of Gänswein as the official master of the pontiff's schedule and travels beyond already serving as its de facto supervisor since Joseph Ratzinger's 2005 election has been widely interpreted as a doubling-down on the secretary's influence over Benedict's orbit in the wake of the "Vatileaks" fiasco. Beyond the consuming task of arranging all the Pope's audiences and major Vatican events in his charge as prefect, "Don Giorgio" will remain as private secretary and, ostensibly, keep his room in the Papal Apartment as opposed to taking up the suite elsewhere in the Apostolic Palace traditionally held by the head of the Household.

While the ordinandi were clothed in lace albs and the now-standard Roman (i.e. "fiddle-back") vestments used on this feast – and the Pope yet again donned the recently-restored papal fanon – the ornate crozier given Gänswein was offset by his choice of receiving the "Council ring," the unadorned gold band given by Paul VI to all the Fathers of Vatican II at the gathering's close in 1965, and often replicated since.

For his coat of arms, the archbishop-prefect has adopted the customary prerogative of his new post in integrating Benedict's shield onto his own. His personal arms dominated by the dragon that heraldically symbolizes his patron, St George – and, in this instance, has been viewed as a symbol of the secretary's determination to protect the pontiff – Gänswein has taken "Testimonium Perhibere Veritati" ("To bear witness to the truth") as his motto.