SFgate.com on Abp. Levada to CDF speculation



Quotes John-Peter Pham, who believes one reason Pope Benedict may have tagged Abp. Levada is his expertise on the Orthodox Churches.

Levada, who worked on the Vatican staff of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1976 to 1982, has an intimate understanding of the issues facing the U.S. church, having served as the Archbishop of Portland from 1986 to 1995, and since then as the Archbishop of San Francisco.

During his final year in Rome, Levada worked for the pope, known then as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of that key Vatican office, and has kept close ties to the German cardinal over the last two decades.

"If they want to address the ethical and moral issues in the church in Europe and North America, you have Ratzinger speaking to Europe and Levada to the United States," said Paul Murphy, a church scholar at the University of San Francisco.

Murphy, the director of the Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought, noted that Levada may serve a very liberal archdiocese, but he carries strong credentials as a doctrinal conservative.

"He won't necessarily please liberals in North America, but he is someone very familiar with the North American situation," Murphy said.

Levada's election would have a double impact on the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which covers San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties.

It would create an opening for the job of San Francisco Archbishop, giving the new pope a chance to put his mark on the Bay Area church.

But Former Vatican diplomat John-Peter Pham said Pope Benedict has more global reasons for considering Levada for the key Vatican post.

Pham said Benedict hopes to use his papacy to strengthen ties with the Eastern Orthodox churches, which split off from Rome centuries ago in a dispute over the power of the pope.

"Levada is the academic expert on that topic," said Pham, author of "Heirs of the Fisherman -- Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession.''

"It would be a tribute to William Levada, theologian," Pham said.
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