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Canon lawyer named education head

Special to the National Catholic Reporter
Warsaw, Poland

The pope has named a Polish canon lawyer said to have little knowledge of education issues as prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Vatican office that supervises church-owned schools and seminaries worldwide.

Archbishop Zenon Grocholewski, 60, replaces Italian Cardinal Pio Laghi, whose resignation became official Nov. 15.

The agency Grocholewski will head oversees implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the pope’s controversial 1990 document on Catholic higher education.

Grocholewski, who has worked in the Vatican since 1972, has been prefect of the Holy See’s supreme tribunal, the Apostolic Signatura, since October 1998. Before that he served as the tribunal’s secretary. He is also a consultant to the Papal Council for Legislative Texts.

Grocholewski has a doctorate in canon law from the Gregorian University and has lectured on the subject at the Lateran University.

Sources told NCR that Grocholewski speaks English well and has traveled in the United States, largely for meetings of canon law societies. He holds honorary citizenships from Trenton and Princeton, N.J.

The chairman of the Polish church’s influential Catholic Education Commission, Bishop Edward Materski of Radom, Poland, told NCR the appointment would be important in helping to apply Polish catechesis models worldwide.

“This has been the only country in the world providing systematic catechetical training for young people,” said Materski, whose commission supervises the work of two Catholic universities, 350 colleges and around 50,000 state school catechists in Poland.

However, Materski said he was unsure whether the new prefect has any educational experience. “Our commission has had no contacts with him,” he said.

Although the new prefect also belongs to the Scientific Commission of Poland’s church-owned Catholic University of Lublin, a staffer told NCR Nov. 16 she was unaware of any contacts.

Fr. John Renken, president of the Canon Law Society of America, praised Grocholewski as “one of the greatest canonical minds in the church today.” Renken also said he was unaware of any credentials Grocholewski might possess as an educator.

NCR staff contributed to this report.

National Catholic Reporter, December 3, 1999