Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves / Office of Communication Society of Jesus

Rome Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 04:46 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has appointed a Spanish layman to lead the Secretariat for the Economy following the resignation of Father Juan Antonio Guerrero, SJ, “for personal reasons.”

Guerrero is undergoing medical treatment after having surgery in 2022, Vatican News reported Nov. 30.

Maximino Caballero Ledo, 62, has been secretary general, the second-ranking position, in the economy office since August 2020.

Before coming to the Vatican, Caballero was vice president of international finance at Baxter Healthcare, Inc., a medical products company. From Merida, Spain, he lived and worked in the United States from 2007–2020.

Guerrero is also from Merida, Spain, and a childhood friend of Caballero. The 63-year-old Jesuit priest began his term as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in January 2020.

The Vatican said Nov. 30 that Pope Francis had accepted Guerrero’s resignation “for personal reasons.” The resignation takes effect Dec. 1.

According to Vatican News, Guerrero wrote a letter to employees of the Secretariat for the Economy, which said after an operation in 2022, “I am undergoing medical treatment that has side effects that make it particularly difficult for me to carry out a task as demanding as the one I am entrusted with, and that requires a greater physical efficiency and mental concentration than what I have at this time.”

Guerrero’s letter also looked back at the accomplishments of the economy office over his three years as prefect and what might be coming next.

“There are still many things in the pipeline,” he said, “the centralization of investments, the further regulation and simplification of procurement processes in order to make them more transparent and streamlined; the implementation of a Directorate for Human Resources, which is a new challenge to improve the working conditions and atmosphere within the Holy See; and the planning of greater use of computerized procedures.”

The priest noted that reform includes both steps forward and steps backward, but “we are not now at the same point at which we started.”

“In any case,” he said, “we know that being a controlling body always involves being in an uncomfortable position for those who are controlled.”

The pope “warmly thanks Father Guerrero for the dedication shown in his service to the Holy See,” a Nov. 30 statement from the Vatican said. “Father Guerrero managed to sort out the economy for the better, it was a strong and challenging work that bore much fruit. The Holy Father assures him of his prayers.”

Guerrero and Caballero were childhood friends who grew up in the same city in Spain. Caballero told Vatican News after his appointment in August 2020 that the two were close friends through university and had remained in contact.

Caballero has degrees in economics and business administration, and has worked for businesses in Spain and the United States in positions of international finance.

He has been married for 33 years to Immaculada, and they have two adult children.

When appointed to work in the Vatican’s economy office in 2020, Caballero described it as “God’s call,” saying that for he and his wife, “there was only one response: ‘fiat.’”

Pope Francis established the Secretariat for Economy in 2014 as part of his financial reform of the Vatican. It oversees the financial aspects of both the Roman Curia and the Vatican City State administration, including a review of financial reports.

Guerrero, who has been a Jesuit since 1979, has a degree in economics from the Autonomous University of Madrid and degrees in theology, philosophy, and letters.

Before becoming prefect, the priest had been living in Rome since 2017, serving as general counselor and delegate of the superior general for the interprovincial houses and works of the Jesuits.

Guerrero had filled a position left vacant since February 2019, when the Vatican confirmed Cardinal George Pell’s five-year term as prefect to have expired.

Pell had taken a leave of absence beginning in June 2017, when he returned to his country of Australia to defend himself at trial against charges of historic sex abuse.

The cardinal was initially convicted and imprisoned, but later had his conviction overturned on appeal. He was released and moved back to Rome, where he lives in retirement.

This story was updated at 7 a.m. MST with information from Vatican News about Guerrero’s letter.