ROME — Pope Francis has tapped a South Korean bishop to lead the Vatican office responsible for the world's 400,000 Catholic priests, in the second major appointment of an Asian prelate to the Holy See during his papacy.
Monsignor Lazarus You Heung-sik, currently the bishop of Daejeon, replaces the retiring Cardinal Beniamino Stella as prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, the Vatican said Friday.
You's appointment follows Francis' 2019 decision to bring Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle to Rome to head another important Vatican congregation, Propaganda Fide, which is responsible for the church in the so-called mission territories of Africa, Asia and elsewhere.
Asia is increasingly seen as the future of the Catholic Church. Along with Africa, it is the only region in the world where numbers of priests, seminarians and religious sisters have shown continual growth, amid steady declines in Europe and the Americas.
You, 69, accompanied Francis on his 2014 visit to South Korea, the first of several Asian pilgrimages the Argentine pope has made.
Recently Francis authorized a Vatican investigation into Stella's clergy office, presumably to be completed before the handover to his successor. In Friday's announcement, Francis told Stella, 79, to remain in his job until You is installed.
It's the second Vatican department Francis has subjected to an external assessment upon the retirement of its leader. Francis ordered an investigation into the Vatican's liturgy office that until recently was headed by conservative Cardinal Robert Sarah. Recently Francis tapped Sarah's No. 2, British Bishop Arthur Roche, to succeed the Guinean cardinal.
Francis has been overseeing a process of reform and financial transparency in the Holy See bureaucracy, leading up to the expected publication of a new governing constitution laying out the organization and mission of the Vatican's various departments.