After careful evaluation of the merger between the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for Culture, the decision has been made to return independence to the Inter-Religious Dialogue Council.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in an interview today with the Italian daily La Stampa, announced that the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue will return to being "a dicastery in its own right, whereas previously it had been merged with the Pontifical Council for Culture." This move marks a re-emphasis on the importance of Inter-Religious Dialogue for the Secretariat.
In March 2006, Pope Benedict had announced that the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue would be combined with the Pontifical Council for Culture, under the oversight of a single person: Cardinal Paul Poupard. Although this move left the two agencies intact, the general consensus was that this marked a down grading of the agencies.
However, the recent encounters between the Church and other religions have reinforced the necessity of inter-religious dialogue-- and especially for dialogue with Islam. This became particularly obvious in the heated disputes that arose after the Pope's speech in Regensburg last September. Cardinal Bertone explained that in light of these exchanges, it is necessary to reinstate the previous status of the Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue.
During his interview with La Stampa, the prelate did not mention who the head of the council would be. The previous leader was Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, a well known expert on Islam, who was sent to Egypt as a papal nuncio following the merger of the councils last March.
Cardinal Bertone also revealed another curial change in his conversation with La Stampa, by indicating that the Pontifical Commission for Cultural Patrimony would become a part of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
Given these changes, further speculation is circulating as to what other changes will be made within the Roman Curia.