Tags: vatican | pope | reform

Pope Taps Cardinals to Advise on Governing, Reform

Saturday, 13 Apr 2013 08:58 AM

 

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VATICAN CITY  — Pope Francis marked his first month as pontiff on Saturday by naming eight cardinals from around the globe to a permanent advisory group to counsel him on running the Catholic Church and reforming the Vatican bureaucracy — a bombshell announcement that indicates he intends a shift in how the papacy should function.

The panel includes only one current Vatican official; the rest are cardinals from North, Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia — a clear indication that Francis wants to reflect the universal nature of the church as he goes about governing. The panel includes Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston.

Urgent:
Should the Pope change the Catholic Church?

The church is growing and counts most of the world's Catholics in the southern hemisphere while it's shrinking in Europe. The Vatican and the 200-strong College of Cardinals, traditionally the pope's primary advisers, remain heavily European.

In the run-up to the conclave that elected Francis the first Latin American pope one month ago, cardinals demanded the Vatican be more responsive to their needs on the ground, and said the bureaucracy itself must be overhauled. Including representatives from each continent in a permanent advisory panel to the pope would seem to go a long way toward answering those calls.

In its announcement Saturday, the Vatican said Francis got the idea to form the advisory body from the pre-conclave meetings where such complaints were aired. "He has formed a group of cardinals to advise him in the governing of the universal church and to study a revision of the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus on the Roman Curia," the statement said.

Pope John Paul II issued Pastor Bonus in 1988, and it functions effectively as the blueprint for the administration of the Holy See, known as the Roman Curia, and the Vatican City State. The document metes out the work and jurisdictions of the congregations, pontifical councils and other offices that make up the governance of the Catholic Church.

Pastor Bonus itself was a revision of the 1967 document that marked the last major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, undertaken by Pope Paul VI.

A reform of the Vatican bureaucracy has been demanded for decades, given that both John Paul and Benedict XVI essentially neglected in-house administration of the Holy See in favor of other priorities. But the calls for change grew deafening last year after the leaks of papal documents exposed petty turf battles within the Vatican bureaucracy, allegations of corruption in the running of the Vatican city state, and even a purported plot by senior Vatican officials to out a prominent Catholic as gay.

Francis' advisory group will meet in its inaugural session Oct. 1-3, the Vatican said in a statement.

Urgent: Should the Pope change the Catholic Church?

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, stressed that the cardinals are a consultative body, not a decision-making one, and that they don't take the place of the Vatican bureaucracy. His comments appeared aimed at reassuring Vatican bureaucrats that they weren't being sidelined by a counterweight advisory body that better reflects the geographic distribution of today's church.

In the run-up to his election, cardinals were very clear that the status quo of the Vatican was untenable.

Prelates said they wanted term limits on Vatican jobs to prevent priests from becoming career bureaucrats. They wanted consolidated financial reports to remove the cloak of secrecy from the Vatican's murky finances. And they wanted regular Cabinet meetings where department heads actually talk to one another to make the Vatican a help to the church's evangelizing mission, not a hindrance.

They also said they wanted the Vatican to serve the bishops in the field, and not the other way around.

"It just doesn't work either very quickly or very efficiently," U.S. Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, said in an interview soon after Francis was elected. "Take marriage cases: People shouldn't have to be asked to wait three, four, five, six years to get a response" for a request for an annulment.

Aside from Saturday's announcement, Francis has made one Vatican appointment so far, naming a member of his namesake Franciscan order to the important No. 2 spot at the Vatican's congregation for religious orders.

His most eagerly-watched appointment has yet to come: that of the Vatican secretary of state, who runs the day-to-day administration of the Holy See. Currently, the position is held by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a 78-year-old canon lawyer whose administrative shortcomings have been blamed for many of the Vatican's current problems today.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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