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Pope and cardinals to completely overhaul the Curia, says spokesman

By on Friday, 4 October 2013

Pope Francis prays during a meeting with his cardinal advisers (Photo: CNS)

Pope Francis prays during a meeting with his cardinal advisers (Photo: CNS)

Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals are laying out plans to completely overhaul the Roman Curia, underlining its role of “service to the universal Church and the local churches”, the Vatican spokesman has said.

As the Pope and his eight cardinal advisers were about to begin their final session on Thursday, Fr Federico Lombardi said major themes of discussion were the responsibilities of the Vatican Secretary of State, the revamping of the world Synod of Bishops, and the Vatican’s attention to the role of the laity.

Fr Lombardi said the group’s agenda was partially dictated by the Pope’s own timetable. Pope Francis has named Archbishop Pietro Parolin to be his Secretary of State and has given him an October 15 start date, so it made sense to discuss how the Pope and cardinals see his role in a renewed Curia.

Under the terms of Blessed John Paul II’s constitution Pastor Bonus, a 1988 reform of the Curia, the Secretariat of State includes two sections: one section deals with foreign relations and the other deals with internal Church matters. “Pastor Bonus” said the Secretariat was to “foster relations” with other Curia offices and “coordinate their work”.

Fr Lombardi said the Pope and the cardinals emphasised the role of the Secretariat of State as “the Secretariat of the Pope”, and said the discussions included “the hypothesis of a new figure – the ‘moderator of the Curia'” to ensure greater communication and cooperation among the Curia offices.

The discussions, Fr Lombardi said, were going clearly in the direction of an apostolic constitution to replace Pastor Bonus, and not simply “cosmetic retouches or marginal modifications” of the 1988 document.

Possible changes to the organisation of the world Synod of Bishops, which has been a periodic gathering of bishops from around the world to discuss a specific theme of Church life, were moved to the top of the meeting’s agenda because the Synod Council will meet at the Vatican next week, the spokesman said.

Fr Lombardi said the Pope is expected to decide the theme for the next synod “in the coming days”.

The eight cardinals – six of whom currently serve as diocesan bishops – brought to the meeting with the Pope suggestions they received from Church leaders around the world. One of the topics mentioned most often, Fr Lombardi said, was concern for the role of the laity in the Church and the world.

The Pope and his cardinal advisers talked about “how to ensure that this dimension of the Church’s reality is more adequately and effectively recognised and followed in the governance of the Church”, Fr Lombardi said.

The vast majority of the Catholic Church’s 1.2 billion members are lay people, the spokesman said. Their activities and needs are followed by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which is “very active”, he said, but does not have the profile or authority of a Vatican congregation, such as those for bishops, for priests and for religious.

Pope Francis has asked his eight cardinal advisers for advice on the Vatican’s finances, as well, Fr Lombardi said, but the theme was not treated in depth at the October meeting because Pope Francis also appointed several special commissions to look into specific aspects of the Vatican’s finances.

At the end of their meeting, council members announced they would hold their second meeting with the Pope on December 3 to December 5, and they planned to meet again at the Vatican in February “so that the work of the council, especially in this initial phase, can proceed quickly”, Fr Lombardi said.

The eight members, who represent six continents, are: Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Sean O’Malley of Boston; George Pell of Sydney; Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State; and Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

  • revolting ewe

    I don’t understand what is the big deal with the laity. I thought the clergy are to minister to the laity and the laity are to minister to the world. Why do we need to confuse these roles? I thought the heirarchy was a sort of (inverse) pyramid with the biggest servant at the top with the most responsibility. Clergy have a role and laity have a role. Why does it have to be complicated?

  • NatOns

    God bless our Pope, and dear Lord guide those called to assist him!

    ‘The intention of the cardinals is to emphasise the nature of the service on the part of the Curia and the universal and local church “in terms of subsidiarity, rather than the exercise of centralised power. The intended direction would be to put this into practice in the service of the Church in all her dimensions”.’

    Here is the crux of the matter: How do the Cardinal assistants and the Holy Father view the character of service in a royal and priestly people?

    Each one of us is anointed to the struggle of service in merely being baptised into the Order of Melchizedek in Christ, but not all are called to ordination as apostles, teachers, healers, prophets, or speakers!

    The nature of the various ministries must differ, then, or not be different acts of service, yet all service is gifted to us under the same Holy Ghost, for the will of God our Father, in His Son Jesus Christ; so, yes, the role of the People of God in the life of the Church does need to be properly and effectively recognised and followed by the governance of the Church – as Pastor bonus recalled.

    ‘The Pontifical Council for the Laity is competent in those matters pertaining to the Apostolic See regarding the promotion and co-ordination of the apostolate of the laity and, generally, in those matters respecting the Christian life of laypeople as such.’ Blessed John Paul II, Pastor Bonus.

    This co-ordinating factor for the mission of God’s People under the Bishop of Rome rests in his being a bishop, if rather as the Sovereign Pontiff among them. It is the role of episcopal oversight for popular apostolic assistance that needs a boot up the proverbial – for, all very properly, bishops tremble in fear of being reported to Rome (rarely proving themselves sterling witnesses to the Faith). So subsidiarity must not be interpreted as a freehand to do as one pleases, but, as Pastor bonus required, a demand for greater episcopal engagement and control in regard to Catholic Action aka a hermeneutic of Continuity not Rupture (if any such thing is allowed to survive long against the devastation built into the ‘spirit of Vat II’ with its rebellious We Are Church replacement).

    ‘Peace on Earth — which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after — can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order.’ Blessed John XXIII, Pacem in Terris.

    Truly, peace cannot come from mere human ideologies (however appealing to the moment), as the words of the saintly Pontiff John XXIII still ring out vividly in warning to those who have ears to hear. It is in following the observance of the divinely established order alone that leads to the peace we all need – and shall share perfectly in the Beatific Vision alone – and neither bishops nor people can be trusted to observe this, when set free from the Faith. Here the bug-bear is not the character of service, it is ever focused on God in order to reach out to all (not just those we like); rather the taint comes with infidelity to that commission – be it by people, elders or overseers; and this can be seen in the debacle over Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in the dioscesan offices at Westminster – a naieve but utterly faithful lay group was heavy-handed by the officials because it was utterly faithful not experimental or cutting edge .. and, unfortunately, that is what subsidiarity means in practical effect when the episcopate values ‘Now’ rather than per omnia saecula saeculorum.

    ‘American Catholics Agree With Pope Francis That Church Too Focused On Gay, Abortion, Contraception .. The survey also found that Catholic support for same-sex marriage continues to be strong, as other surveys have found, with six-in-10 Catholics approving of gay marriage and 31 percent opposed. That’s slightly above the national 56 percent approval rating.’ Huffington Post, 04/10/13.

  • WRBaker

    These stats show, then, that the American bishops have done a extremely poor job of catechizing the laity. Collegiality hasn’t (and won’t) help.

  • WRBaker

    It isn’t complicated except it appears the bishops want more “say” in how things are run. Just look at how the various conferences do things now (the USCCB is a classic example) – the right hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, while their dioceses are neglected with priests (and some bishops) saying and doing things in direct conflict with the Magisterium.

  • NatOns

    Or, at very least, that it will do nothing whatever to address the crisis swallowing the Catholic Church from within – a terrifying image, if ever there was one.

    Collegiality can be fairly helpful in addressing a national or international trauma, if an end purpose is to be implemented – or agreed – by eagerly faithful overseers amid clearly defined areas of strife (cf. the Council of Jerusalem).

    It can only add mayhem to muddledom if the overseers are eagerly unfaithful, of two minds on witnessing to the Faith in season and out, and have no common agenda to address error, hostility or persecution – this readiness to drift (away from the Faith) is seen in all too many clucking church collectives (cf the Robber Council).

  • Atilla the Possum

    When I look at books celebrating jubilees of parishes over 50 years old, the laity was very much involved with their Church in such things as the Saint Vincent de Paul, the Pioneers, the Legion of Mary, Union of Catholic Mothers, parish confraternities etc. as well as other social activities like dances, youth and old folks clubs to keep their parish involved and to encourage a vibrant, healthy social and spiritual aspect.
    Activities like these started to tail off (but are not gone for good, thank God) with those who ran with the ball to the wrong touchdown after Vatican II and the creaky old cliques that formed over the years amongst certain parishioners that became unwelcoming to fresh blood.
    Maintaining good housekeeping both within the church building and properties outside was just as vital to the parish as going to Mass and the sacraments.
    When I drive past some Catholic parishes, posters are tied to the railings advertising such activities such as slimming, line dancing and Zumba than the Catholic lay associations I mentioned above.
    Why doesn’t the hierarchy outwardly encourage the UCM, the Legion of Mary and the Saint Vincent de Paul etc. and to state that you don’t have to do things on the altar like be a Reader or EMHC etc.
    In the Church, everyone should be made to feel valued.