In their final day of meetings with Pope Francis, the group of eight cardinals defined concrete steps in curial reform and specified that the role of the laity will be a significant area of focus in the future.
The council of cardinals – formed by the Pope to advise him in areas of reform and governance within the Church – began their first set of meetings Oct. 1, and finished on Thursday.
In an Oct. 3 press briefing, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi revealed that Curial reform and the attribution of a more inclusive role of the laity were among the principle topics discussed in yesterday’s council meetings.
Pope Francis attended the evening session yesterday which was held from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m., when the Holy Father went to pray. However he was not present in this morning’s session due to his audience with the participants in a meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Fr. Lombardi said that despite the absence of the Pope, the cardinals dedicated their work primarily to the reform of the Curia, whose work implies “a new constitution with significant new aspects.”
The intention of the cardinals, said the Vatican spokesman, is to emphasize the nature of service on the part the curia, as well as the universal and local church “in terms of subsidiarity, rather than the exercise of centralized power.”
“The intended direction would be to put this into practice in the service of the Church in all her dimensions.”
Fr. Lombardi was clear to specify that the work of the council in the reform of the curia “would not indicate an updating” of Blessed John Paul II's 1998 apostolic Constitution “Pastor Bonus.”
Rather, their work is directed to creating “a new constitution with significant new aspects...The cardinals have made it clear that they do not intend to make cosmetic retouches or minor modifications to 'Pastor bonus.'”
Another question which merited “significant attention” in the council’s meetings, was that of the laity, as the cardinal members had received numerous suggestions and questions on this topic from many in their various areas.
“When dealing with the reform of the curia and its institutions, the council also plans to give more specific attention to issues relating to the laity, so that this dimension of the life of the Church is properly and effectively recognized and followed by the governance of the Church,” Fr. Lombardi said.
“Now there is a Pontifical Council for the Laity, but it is still possible to think of ways of strengthening this aspect.”
Also discussed by the council was the nature and function of the Secretariat of State, which “should be the secretariat of the Pope; the word State should not give rise to doubt. This body serves the Pope in the governance of the universal Church,” expressed the spokesman.
Fr. Lombardi stressed that discussion on the duties of the Secretary of State are of special importance since the newly appointed Archbishop Pietro Parolin will assume this role on Oct. 15.
During the briefing, Fr. Lombardi took a moment to express the words and sentiments of Pope Francis at the end of his audience with the participants of a special meeting held in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of John XXIII's encyclical, “Pacem in Terris,” in which he called to mind to the 90 victims of an Oct. 3 shipwreck near the Italian island of Lampedusa.
“In the light of this new tragedy,” he said, “we understand more clearly the value and meaning of the first trip of Francis' pontificate.”