Quoting his apostolic exhortations Evangelii Gaudium and Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis wrote that Fernández’s task as the new head of the Vatican’s doctrine office “should express that the Church ‘encourages the charism of theologians and their theological research efforts’ as long as ‘they are not content with a desk theology,’ with ‘a cold, hard logic that seeks to dominate everything.’ It will always be true that reality is superior to the idea.”
Fernández was born in 1962 in the small rural town of Alcira, in the Province of Córdoba. He was ordained a priest in August 1986 in Río Cuarto, a mostly rural diocese. In 1988 he obtained a degree in theology with a biblical specialization at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and then obtained a doctorate in theology at the UCA in 1990. He was pastor of Santa Teresita in Río Cuarto (Córdoba) from 1993 to 2000 and was founder and director of the Jesús Buen Pastor Lay Formation Institute and Teacher Training Center in the same city.
In the early 1990s he moved to Buenos Aires, where he was appointed a consultor to several commissions within the Argentinean bishops’ conference and the Latin American Bishops Council (CELAM).
Having shown a great capacity for writing, Fernández was brought by then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as an expert to the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Bishops, held in 2007 at the Brazilian Marian shrine of Aparecida.
Aparecida, many sources have claimed, solidified the relationship between the future pope and the theologian.
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From 2008 to 2009 he was dean of the faculty of theology of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina and president of the Argentine Theological Society.
On Dec. 15, 2009, Cardinal Bergoglio appointed Fernández as rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina. However, Fernández was not able to take the oath of office until May 20, 2011, after he had answered objections to his appointment raised by Vatican officials who expressed concerns about the orthodoxy of certain elements of his scholarship.
An avid writer, by the time Fernández was chosen by Bergoglio as the UCA rector, he had written hundreds of articles and books, including, “Incarnated Spiritual Theology” (2004), a book that was featured in the Argentinean soap opera “Esperanza Mía,” about an illicit love affair between a priest and a nun.
The book commonly regarded as his most unusual is the 1995 work “Heal Me With Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing.” Regarding the book, Fernández explained that “in these pages I want to synthesize the popular feeling, what people feel when they think of a kiss, what they experience when they kiss ... So, trying to synthesize the immense richness of life, these pages emerged in favor of kissing. I hope that they help you kiss better, that they motivate you to release the best of yourself in a kiss.”
The book has disappeared from most official lists of Fernández’s works.
Pope Francis appointed Fernández the titular Archbishop of Tiburnia on May 13, 2013, thus making him the first rector of UCA to become an archbishop.
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.