As mentioned in our newsletter a couple of weeks ago, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, who was noted for his highly conservative political and religious beliefs, offered his resignation as Archbishop of Lima, having turned 75 on 28 December. Bishops are obliged to offer their resignation at 75 under Canon Law, although the Pope is not obliged to accept them. In the case of Cipriani, he did.

On 25 January, Pope Francis appointed Fr. Carlos Castillo Mattasoglio, a Lima diocesan priest and theology professor at the Catholic University (PUCP) since 1987, to replace Cipriani. Castillo was the personal assistant of Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, the founder of liberation theology, and he trained in liberation theology himself.

For those who have known him since his youth, Castillo’s appointment heralds a significant departure from the conservative church in Lima, which, as we know, carries significant political weight in Peru. He exercised a strong influence over a generation of university students, encouraging them to challenge prevailing attitudes and norms. For them, his appointment was greeted with enthusiasm, not least because it came after months, indeed years, of scandal in the Church and at a time when corruption appears endemic and faith in the political establishment is at an all-time low.

Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno from Huancayo told Catholic News Service that the new archbishop of Lima is the type of church leader that Pope Francis seeks who is “more in tune with the poorest, most humble people”.

Castillo has extensive experience working with young people in university ministry and in ministering to youth in Lima more generally. Since the 1990s, he has been as a member of the Peruvian bishops’ commission on youth, as well as a theology professor. His appointment brings the prospect of the human rights community and the Church working more closely with one another in defending human rights, promoting social inclusion, and strengthening democracy.

He is likely to play a key role in Francis’ REPAM (Red Eclesial Panamazónica) initiative, the Catholic network promoting the rights and dignity of people living in the Amazon and protecting their habitat. The project brings together churches in all nine Amazon countries. It is backed by CELAM, the Latin American Bishop’s Conference.