Pope Francis is meeting his international Council of Cardinals this month to discuss reform of the Vatican bureaucracy and other issues.
The meeting is taking place from February 17 to 19 and is focused on financial and bureaucratic matters, with rumours suggesting the council are working on a draft of an apostolic constitution that would reorganise the Church’s central administration, the Roman Curia.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, was asked about the rumours that the council could have a draft of a Curia reorganisation plan ready as early as May. “I have the impression that this is a work that is going forward intensely,” he replied, but, he added, it does not seem to be on the verge of finishing the draft.
Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa told the French newspaper La Croix that the council was considering putting a married couple at the head of the Pontifical Council for the Family and he repeated the idea that the reformed Curia could have a Congregation for the Laity rather than the lower-ranked pontifical council.
Father Lombardi said his impression was that those ideas were being discussed, but that nothing had been proposed formally yet. When the council met in December it began an overview of Vatican offices by focusing on the existing congregations, he said.
The fact that the cardinals have not even started reviewing the pontifical councils seems to indicate they have a way to go before coming up with a comprehensive plan, he added.
In reviewing the Vatican bureaucracy and the governance of the Church, the Pope and the cardinals began their discussions on Monday with a discussion of the Vatican’s financial operations, meeting in the morning with three members of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See. The commission is investigating accounting practices in Vatican offices to devise strategies for greater fiscal responsibility and transparency.
The second day of the Pope’s meeting with the council was also dedicated to financial matters, but looking more specifically at the activities and mission of the Vatican bank.
The morning meeting included a discussion with four of the five members of a commission the Pope established in June to look at the Institute for the Works of Religion, the bank’s formal title.
The commission gave the cardinals a “full report,” Father Lombardi said, and the cardinals responded with many questions. The focus, the spokesman said, is not on the internal workings or even some of the recent scandals involving the Vatican bank, but on whether and how it serves the mission of the Church.
The final day of the Pope’s meeting with his cardinal-councilors will include a conversation with the 15-member Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organisational and Economic Problems of the Holy See, which oversees budget making for the Holy See and Vatican City State.
Looking at the administrative and economic institutions of the Holy See, Father Lombardi said, the Pope and cardinals are trying to put every office into context and understand how they could work together better for the good of the Church.
Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, participated in all of the meetings of the Council of Cardinals, Father Lombardi said, and although he has not formally been named a member of the council, he was participating on an equal footing as the cardinals.
In addition to Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, the other members of the council 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 P. O’Malley of Boston; George Pell of Sydney; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.
The eight cardinals joined Pope Francis the first morning for Mass in his residence, where the Pope preached patience.