Bishop Angelo De Donatis is seen during his ordination Mass as an auxiliary bishop of Rome in 2015. Pope Francis appointed him his vicar of Rome May 26, which automatically makes him an archbishop. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)
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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As his vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, an auxiliary bishop and well-known spiritual director, who led Pope Francis' first Lenten retreat as pope.
The pope is the bishop of Rome, but the pope's responsibilities are so vast that he needs a vicar to ensure the proper pastoral care of the Diocese of Rome. The Vatican announced the appointment May 26.
The papal appointment automatically elevates the auxiliary bishop of Rome to archbishop and includes serving as grand chancellor of Rome's Pontifical Lateran University and archpriest of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral church of the Rome Diocese.
Archbishop De Donatis will succeed Cardinal Agostino Vallini June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome.
Addressing priests gathered at St. John Lateran for the announcement, Archbishop De Donatis said his task would be "to announce God's mercy with the word and life" as well as "protect and promote ecclesial communion."
"I ask for the gift of knowing how to always listen deeply," he said.
The 63-year-old native of the southern province of Lecce succeeds Cardinal Vallini, 77, who is retiring as papal vicar for Rome after serving in that position since 2008.
The new archbishop has degrees in philosophy, theology and moral theology and was ordained to the priesthood in 1980.
He has worked as a parish priest for the Diocese of Rome, a religion teacher and served as spiritual director for Rome's major seminary. He is also a knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
Pope Francis made him an auxiliary bishop of Rome in 2015 and gave him particular responsibility to care for the continuing education of priests.
Ordaining him a bishop in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the pope told him to remember how his father went to great lengths to find a parish that offered Mass without a homily.
"Let your words be simple so that everyone can understand. Don't give long homilies," the pope had said.
"Homilies should be the transmission of God's grace. Simple, so that everyone can understand them and everyone will want to become a better person," Pope Francis had told the new bishop.
The pope had chosen the then-monsignor to lead the weeklong Lenten meditations for the pope and the Roman Curia in 2014.
Meeting in early March with the 36 pastors who serve as prefects in the Diocese of Rome, Pope Francis asked them to consult with their fellow priests and parishioners and send him suggestions for Cardinal Vallini's successor. He asked that by April 12 they send a report on what they saw as the key needs of the diocese, the qualities needed in the vicar and possible names.
The papal vicar governs the Diocese of Rome in the name of the pope; he exercises most of the powers of a local bishop and presides over a vicariate with most of the usual offices found in the chancery of a large archdiocese, including offices for personnel, religious education and ecumenism.