By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The former leader of Philadelphia’s Catholics has been removed from a key Vatican panel, as part of a larger shakeup.

Pope Francis has removed Cardinal Justin Rigali from the Congregation for Bishops — a powerful committee that nominates priests to become bishops.

Rigali stepped down as Philadelphia archbishop two years ago amid the clergy sex abuse scandal.

But Vatican watcher Rocco Palmo, who writes the blog “Whispers in the Loggia,” says Rigali’s age — he turns 79 in April and would have to give up his seat when he turns 80 — is a more significant factor.

“I think it may be the pope’s way of saying more than anything else, ‘Okay, you’ve had a role in this for 20 years.  Maybe it’s time for a younger generation and a different American to take the lead on it.’ ”

And Palmo thinks there is little intrigue in the move.

“Obviously there’s a sense of local interest in terms of Rigali having been shuffled out,” Palmo tells KYW Newsradio.  “But I think you have to look at it in terms of the bigger picture.  It’s not a personal thing — just that Francis wanted to put his own stamp on the body.”

The pope also removed the former St. Louis archbishop, Cardinal Raymond Burke, naming Washington, DC cardinal Donald Wuerl as the only American on the panel.

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