The new secretary general of the Spanish bishops, next Wednesday

Luis Argüello as head of the General Secretariat of the Spanish Episcopal Conference will be elected in a vote on Wednesday morning, November 23.

Maria José Atienza-November 15, 2022-Reading time: 4 minutes
bishops' plenary session

Photo: Last Plenary Assembly of the Spanish Bishops. April 2022. ©CEE

The Spanish Episcopal Conference is already working in anticipation of next week's intense agenda, during which it will hold the 120th Plenary Assembly of the Bishops of Spain The new Secretary General and Spokesman of the Spanish Episcopate is expected to be named.

Msgr. Luis Argüellowho has held this position until now, has presented his resignation (which will be formalized at the beginning of the next plenary session) upon his appointment as Archbishop of Valladolid.

Thus, this morning, in an informative briefing for the media, the director of the Press Office of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, José Gabriel Vera, announced the timing and key points of the election to the General Secretariat of the Spanish bishops.

On Wednesday morning, the Spanish bishops will appoint a new Secretary General. It will be the first, and perhaps the most mediatic, item of that day's meeting, which usually begins around 10:00 a.m.

A meeting will be held the previous evening ad hoc of the Standing Committee The bishops' meeting, after which the names proposed for this position will be announced.

One of the questions that has floated in the air is the possibility of separating the tasks of spokesperson of the Spanish Episcopal Conference from the person of the Secretary General. A change of "roles" that, in any case, would depend directly on the new Secretary General since only he can decide to delegate the function of spokesperson, which is included as one of the attributions of the office of Secretary General of the EEC in epigraph 8 of article 45 of the Statutes of the Spanish Episcopal Conference which refers to the task of the Secretary General.

How are the candidates for General Secretary determined?

The Permanent Commission, in this case, meeting ad hoc within the Plenary Assembly itself, draws up a list of candidates.

Although traditionally referred to as a "terna", the statutes do not determine a specific number of candidates that may be presented to the Plenary. The statutes do not determine a specific number of candidates that may be presented to the Plenary.

In addition to the names to be proposed, candidates who have the endorsement of at least ten bishops (which may include the candidate himself) should be included.

In order to be presented, the candidate must have previously accepted and, if he is a layman or a priest, he must request the consent of his diocesan bishop. Although there is the possibility of a layman being Secretary General of the Spanish bishops, this is a situation that has never occurred in the Spanish Episcopal Conference and that, for the moment, does not seem to be going to change.

The election of the General Secretary

The new Secretary shall be elected by an absolute majority (one-half +1) of the quorum that, at the beginning of the Assembly, shall be established, with the attendees present.

In this case, there are 78 bishops electors in this Plenary Assembly that begins next week. The full members of the EEC have the right to vote, currently: 3 cardinals (Cardinal Antonio Cañizares as apostolic administrator of Valencia); 14 archbishops, 47 diocesan bishops and 11 auxiliary bishops. In addition to the diocesan administrators of Avila, Menorca and Girona. In this case, neither the bishop-elect of San Sebastian nor the auxiliary bishop-elect of Getafe have the right to vote since they have not received episcopal ordination, at which time they will become full members of the EEC.

The voting is done digitally and is secret. It is the first time that the Secretary General of the EEC is elected by this modality of voting that the bishops used, for the first time, in March 2019 and that has been consolidated.

If after two ballots no one obtains the required majority, a third ballot shall be held between the two candidates with the highest number of votes. If in this ballot there is a three-way tie, a vote shall be taken between the two oldest. If there is a tie between these two, the oldest is elected.

If the person elected as Secretary General is not in the Plenary Hall, the President of the Episcopal Conference will be in charge of communicating the election to the person concerned, who will have to accept the office. The process is completed once the President communicates in the room the acceptance of the office.

The Secretary General is elected for a term of 5 years, with the possibility of reelection only for a second successive five-year term.

The "Argüello stage" comes to an end

Luis Argüello, who began this task as Auxiliary Bishop of Valladolid and left it as Titular Archbishop of the same diocese.

Bishop Argüello was elected as Secretary General of the Spanish bishops on November 21, 2018 for the 2018-2023 quinquennium. During this time, he has been a member, therefore, of the Permanent Commission of the EEC and of the Executive Commission of the EEC.

During the years that Msgr. Arguello has been at the head of the Secretariat, he has had to deal with many delicate issues and situations. These have been the years of development of the work in favor of the protection of minors and the the Church's commitment to address sexual abuse.

These years have also seen the renewal of the EEC statutes, the implementation of the formation plan for seminaries or the renewal of the presidency of the Spanish bishops, which took place a week before the establishment of the state of alarm due to the Covid pandemic in March 2020.

In addition, Bishop Argüello has been the voice of the bishops on issues such as euthanasia, in view of the approval of the Organic Law regulating euthanasia in the Congress of Deputies. In 2020, the Executive Commission of the EEC issued, on September 14, the note with the title There are no "unquantifiable" patientsThey promoted a day of fasting and prayer to ask the Lord to inspire laws that promote the care of human life.

Another big issue, the defense of life and abortion has been present in these years before different governmental legislations. Thus, the new Law on sexual and reproductive health and voluntary interruption of pregnancy and the Law for the real and effective equality of trans people and for the guarantee of the rights of LGTBI people and its notorious curtailment of freedoms also gave rise to the note "In favor of the dignity and equality of all human life".

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