By accepting one Cardinal’s resignation and bringing four major dicasteries under two authorities, Pope Benedict has wasted no time starting what could be a significant change within the Roman Curia. His announcements came immediately after finishing his Lenten Spiritual Exercises today.
The Pontiff began by accepting the resignation of Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, who reached the retirement age of 75. Until now, he has served as President of the Pontifical Council for Migrants.
In light of the resignation, Benedict also decided to bring Cardinal Hamao’s former dicastery under the authority of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, thus making Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino responsible for both.
The Holy Father also decided to move the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue--left without a President since the surprising appointment of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald as new Apostolic Nuncio in Egypt on February 15th--under the Pontifical Council for Culture, presided by French Cardinal Paul Poupard.
The Vatican Press office announced the latter change with an unusual comment: "The Pope, with the intention of favoring a more intense dialogue between men of culture and representatives of different religions, has united for now the presidency of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to the Pontifical Council for Culture, and therefore, has appointed His Eminence Cardinal Paul Poupard as President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue."
Many influential Vatican experts have highlighted the phrase "for now" as key in the Vatican statement, considering that Cardinal Martino is 73 and Cardinal Poupard will turn 76 in August.
During his time as a Cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI, on more than one occasion, suggested the need to reduce the number of Vatican dicasteries of the Roman Curia by unifying them or placing most of the councils under the authority of curia’s congregations.
For the moment,neither of the two dicasteries will be physically absorbed or moved from their current offices, but according to Italian commentators "it will probably be a matter of time."