Cardinal O'Malley elected chairman of Papal Foundation

By Hannah Brockhaus

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Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican, April 19, 2018. Credit: Vatican Media.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston was elected chairman of the Papal Foundation’s board of trustees during a meeting in Washington, D.C. Oct. 30, taking over from Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who served in the position for eight years.

O’Malley has been a member of the foundation’s board for 12 years. He is also president of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors and a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals.

The Philadelphia-based Papal Foundation gives grants in support of projects and proposals recommended by the Holy See. Since 1990, the foundation has given over $100 million in grants in service to the Catholic Church.

In a statement on his election, O'Malley praised the work of the foundation, through whose grants, he said, “families and individuals in underserved areas around the world have experienced profound improvements in their lives.”

“Churches, education and health care programs, evangelization and vocation efforts all have been made possible through the extraordinary generosity of the women and men who work closely with the Holy See in providing funding for our brothers and sisters in need,” he stated.

The foundation’s board of trustees voted Oct. 30 to approve $13 million in new scholarships and grants to go toward 127 projects worldwide.

The Papal Foundation is managed by a three-tiered board of trustees. American cardinals residing in the U.S. serve as ex officio members, and bishops and elected laity serve as trustees. Its members are Cardinals Sean O’Malley, Blase Cupich, Daniel DiNardo, Timothy Dolan, Roger Mahony, Adam Maida, Justin Rigali, Joseph Tobin, and Donald Wuerl.

In March, the Papal Foundation announced it would re-evaluate its mission and approach to grant-making following controversy over a $25 million grant from the foundation to a Rome hospital.

In 2017 Pope Francis asked CardinalWuerl for a $25 million grant through the foundation for the Church-owned hospital Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata, which specializes in researching and treating skin diseases.

The Holy See later declined half the grant after objections from some board members. The critics went to the media, resulting in news coverage that questioned the integrity of the hospital and the wisdom of the foundation’s grant-making process.

The foundation responded to criticism by committing to taking any necessary corrective measures and pledging to provide members with the facts of the grant and a clearer understanding of the foundation’s mission and governance. It also committed itself “to renewing its bond of trust with the Holy See.”

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