June 13, 2011
Archbishop Joao Braz de Aviz

Archbishop Joao Braz de Aviz

He has only been at the Vatican for four months, but Brazilian Archbishop Joao Braz de Aviz is already getting good reviews.

As the head of the Vatican office that oversees the world's religious orders, the 64-year-old archbishop inherited an inbox full of tensions and an assignment that in some ways resembled a battleground.

In addition to wrapping up a contentious apostolic visitation of women's religious orders in the United States, he faced the challenge of rebuilding trust and channels of communication with the heads of religious orders worldwide.

Aviz replaced Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rode, who believed that modern religious orders were in a crisis caused in part by the adoption of a secularist mentality and the abandonment of traditional practices.

Rode said many religious had misunderstood the Second Vatican Council, and he faulted women's orders for adopting a "feminist" spirit.

When Pope Benedict named Aviz as the new prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the choice surprised many religious superiors.

Surprise has now turned to optimism about the future.

"The windows have been opened to fresh approaches. I definitely feel there's a new hope for building deeper and better relationships between (the Vatican congregation) and men and women religious," said U.S. Sister Mary Lou Wirtz, president of the International Union of Superiors General.