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Originally published Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 5:18 PM

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Pope puts imprint on key Vatican posts

After six months on the job to study the workings of the Vatican’s bureaucracy, Francis has put his imprint on several positions that help administer the church’s worldwide flock. His management picks will likely please and disappoint conservatives and liberals alike.

The Associated Press

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Saturday effectively demoted a conservative Italian cardinal who led the Vatican’s department on clergy, while keeping in place a German prelate in charge of the Roman Catholic Church’s crackdown on liberal U.S. nuns and helps craft its sex-abuse response.

After six months on the job to study the workings of the Vatican’s Curia, or bureaucracy, Francis has put his imprint on several key positions that help administer the church’s worldwide flock. His management picks will likely please and disappoint conservatives and liberals alike, perhaps in line with his fledgling papacy, which has often defied labels in either camp.

Francis removed Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, with a reputation for being highly traditional on matters of liturgy and the question of priestly celibacy, from the important post of prefect of the congregation for clergy.

Piacenza had held that post since 2010, when he was appointed by Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, whose retro tastes in papal vestments and preference for traditional ceremonies found a supporter in the Italian prelate.

The pope transferred Piacenza to a lower command post, that of head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a little-known Vatican tribunal that deals with confessions of sins so grave only a pope can grant absolution, such as the case of a priest who violates confessional secrecy.

Piacenza will be replaced by another Italian, Beniamino Stella, already serving in the Vatican’s bureaucracy. His office faces many challenges, including how to reverse a priest shortage in much of the developed world and respond to calls from within the rank-and-file faithful and some clergy that the pope consider allowing priests to marry.

In another important decision, Francis left Archbishop Gerhard Mueller in the powerful role of prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Mueller, originally appointed by Benedict XVI, directs the Holy See’s crackdown on nuns suspected of undermining Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality. His office also shapes policy dealing with clergy who sexually abuse minors.

Under Mueller’s tenure, critics of the Vatican’s strategy have so far been frustrated in their lobbying for Vatican and other church hierarchy to be held accountable for policy that for decades left pedophile priests in their ministry, merely shuffling them from parish to parish when complaints emerged.

In another appointment, Monsignor Nikola Eterovic, who was the official in charge of bishop synods, the occasional gatherings that bring bishops together to discuss important policies or regional problems, was transferred to the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. He will now serve as papal ambassador to Germany.

How much influence the conclusions of these synods should have at the Vatican has long been debated.

By putting a new man in charge of that office, Francis, who was archbishop of Buenos Aires when elected pope, has the opportunity to apply his vision to the role of bishops in the church’s decision-making policy.

Francis picked Monsignor Lorenzo Baldisseri, who had long served in Vatican diplomatic posts in South America, to lead the synod office.

In separate developments:

• The Vatican confirmed that Francis would lead an assembly of cardinals Sept. 30 in the Apostolic Palace to announce the much-awaited date for the ceremony to make Pope John XXIII and John Paul II saints.

• Bishop Luis Bambarén says the Vatican has removed Peruvian Bishop Gabino Miranda, 53, as part of the pope’s “zero tolerance” policy against abuse amid accusations that he sexually abused minors.

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