Cardinal Antonio Maria Ruoco Varela of Madrid has been elected president of the Spanish bishops' conference, thus regaining the leadership role that he held from 1999 until 2005.
Cardinal Ruoco Varela, regarded as a strong ally of Pope Benedict XVI, won the presidency of the Spanish episcopal conference in a close 39- 37 vote. He will replace Bishop Ricardo Blazquez of Bilbao.
The result of the Spanish bishops' vote reverses the decision that the episcopal conference made in 2005, when Bishop Blazquez ousted the cardinal from the presidency on a 47- 44 vote.
Cardinal Ruoco Varela, who is especially popular among more conservative Catholics in Spain, expressed his willingness to collaborate with Spain's government, notwithstanding the strong conflicts between the Socialist leadership and the bishops conference in recent weeks.
This month Spaniards go to the polls to elect a new government. The country's incumbent Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero appears poised to continue his governance of the Iberian nation.