Mauro Piacenza JCD (born 15 September 1944) is an Italian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He currently serves as Penitentiary Major of the Apostolic Penitentiary at the Vatican, appointed by Pope Francis on 21 September 2013. He was previously Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy in the Roman Curia from 7 October 2010 to 21 September 2013. He had formerly served as Secretary of that Congregation from 2007 until becoming Prefect.
Piacenza was born in Genoa. After studying at the Major Archiepiscopal Seminary of Genoa, he was ordained to the priesthood by Giuseppe Siri on 21 December 1969. He then completed his studies in Rome, attending the Pontifical Lateran University, where he obtained a doctorate, summa cum laude, in canon law.
After serving as a parochial vicar, he worked as chaplain to the University of Genoa. Piacenza taught canon law at the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy, and held several other curial posts, serving as the archbishop's press officer. He was the diocesan assistant of the ecclesial Movement of Cultural Commitment. He served as professor of contemporary culture and history of atheism at the Ligurian Higher Institute of Religious Studies as well as professor of dogmatic theology at the Diocesan Institute of Theology for the Lay "Didascaleion". He also taught theology at several state lyceums. He was made a canon of the Genoa Cathedral in 1986. Entering the staff of the Congregation for the Clergy in 1990, he was named its Undersecretary on 11 March 2000.
On 13 October 2003, Pope John Paul II appointed Piacenza President of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and Titular Bishop of Victoriana. He received his episcopal consecration on the following 15 November from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, with Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos and Bishop Alberto Tanasini serving as co-consecrators.
He was later named President of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology on 28 August 2004, and then Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy and raised to the rank of archbishop (with the same titular see) on 7 May 2007. He was appointed as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy on 7 October 2010 replacing Cardinal Hummes. His appointment was unusual as few officials who serve as Secretary are appointed as Prefect of the same dicastery.
In an interview shortly after his appointment as Prefect, Archbishop Piacenza said: "Priestly identity cannot but be Christocentric and hence Eucharistic. Christocentric because, as the Holy Father has often reminded, in the ministerial priesthood 'Christ attracts us to himself', involving himself with us and involving us in His very existence. This 'real' attraction happens sacramentally, hence in an objective and unsurpassable way, in the Eucharist, of which the priests are ministers, that is, servants and effective instruments".
On 20 November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI created him Cardinal-Deacon of San Paolo alle Tre Fontane and, on 29 December 2010, appointed him a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for Catholic Education, and the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
In March 2011 in a letter to priests for Lent Cardinal Piacenza said "At times the fatigue is truly great" and priests "feel as if we are too few to fulfil the Churches' needs", but "if first we don't convert ourselves, we will become even fewer". "A de-Christianized world requires a new evangelization" but this in turn requires "new priests" not in the superficial sense, rather priests who are profoundly "renewed" by the love of Christ at every Holy Mass. Cardinal Piacenza concludes, noting that "only a renewed, converted priest can become an instrument through which the Spirit calls new priests".
He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2013 papal conclave that elected Pope Francis.
All Roman curial offices become vacant while there is no pope. While some curial officeholders are re-appointed by the newly elected pope, Pope Francis did not re-appoint him to his position as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy on 21 September 2013. Instead, Piacenza was appointed to head the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican tribunal that deals with indulgences, latæ sententiæ excommunications, and other internal forum matters.