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Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
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Pope appoints panel of cardinals to weigh major reform of Roman Curia

April 13, 2013

Pope Francis has appointed a commission of eight cardinals to advise him on a reform of the Roman Curia.

In the first clear indication that he plans major changes in the administration of Vatican affairs, the Pope named cardinals from every continent to the commission, which will asked to “advise him in the government of the universal Church and to study a plan for revising the apostolic constitution on the Roman Curia, Pastor Bonus.” Pastor Bonus, released in 1988 by Pope John Paul II, included the last major changes in the responsibilities of the Roman Curia, the administrative offices of the Holy See.

The new commission of cardinals was announced on April 13, exactly one month after the election of Pope Francis. The Vatican announcement noted that in convening the group, the Pope was “taking up a suggestion that emerged during the general congregations preceding the conclave.”

Pope Francis was elected at a time when many Church leaders were calling for changes in the Roman Curia, after a series of missteps that culminated in the “Vatileaks” scandal, the leaks of documents that pointed to squabbling and charges of corruption in the Vatican bureaucracy, especially in the Secretariat of State. Pope Francis had addressed the full staff of the Secretariat of State on April 12, the day before the commission of cardinals was announced.

In light of the central role that the Secretariat of State plays in the operation of Vatican affairs, it is also significant that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State, was not named to the papal commission. Vatican journalists generally expect that Cardinal Bertone—who has been a main focus of criticism about administrative errors—will soon be replaced.

Showing an inclination to seek major changes in Roman Curia, the Pope named only one prelate currently serving at the Vatican— Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican city-state—to the panel of cardinals. None of the cardinals who head major congregations or pontifical councils were included, and only one of the other seven cardinals has any past experience serving in the offices of the Roman Curia. Instead the Pontiff chose cardinals who have exercised their ministry in diocesan settings, suggesting that Pope Francis wants to create a system of Vatican administration more responsive to the needs of diocesan leaders.

The Vatican said that the cardinals would hold their first meetings on October 1-3. However, the Pope is already in touch with the members of the commission, the announcement indicated—suggesting that some discussions could already be underway.

The cardinals named to the papal commission are:

  • Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who will coordinate the effort;
  • Cardinal Bertello;
  • Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, the retired Archbishop of Santiago de Chile. (The Chilean prelate, who was secretary of the Congregation for Religious from 1990 to 1996, is the only other commission member with experience on the Vatican staff.)
  • Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, India;
  • Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, Germany;
  • Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo;
  • Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley of Boston; and
  • Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia

Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, will serve as secretary to the commission. Bishop Semeraro was the secretary of the Synod of Bishops in 2001. At that Synod meeting then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, was pressed into service in the key role of relator general after the prelate originally appointed to that role, Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, returned to his archdiocese in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack.


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  • Posted by: Defender - Apr. 13, 2013 11:50 AM ET USA

    Talk about a fox in the henhouse. The cardinal has put his archdiocese $140m in debt, has an expensive senior lay staff, nearly half of his parishes operate in the red and has experienced a 34% in mass attendance since he took over. Cardinal O'Malley helping to reform the Curia when he can't even take care of his own archdiocese? Makes one wonder about the other cardinals and who really suggested them to the pope?

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Apr. 13, 2013 9:25 AM ET USA

    It is not about the structure of the Curia, it is about who holds the key positions. Don't need a commission for that!