The Cardinals commission is now back to a 5-member composition, as foreseen by the new statutes issued in 2019. For a while, the Cardinals commission was composed of six members. The last meeting of the old board took place on July 30, 2020, one and a half years after the Commission terminated its five-year term. Pope Francis appointed his first Commission in January 2014.
The Vatican Secretariat of State has always been represented in the Cardinals Commission since it was established, and the Secretary of State was also the president. This was because the Secretariat of State was the central office in the Curia and – in theory, at least – represented the Pope’s interests.
Pope Francis, however, gave the presidency to Cardinal Avril y Castellò. That the Secretary of State is no longer part of the Cardinals Commission at all is a further sign of how State will be further marginalized, at least in matters of financial management.
Cardinal Parolin will be replaced by the Archbishop of L’Aquila, Cardinal Giuseppe Petrocchi, who Pope Francis already appointed as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the administration of Vatican City.
It is striking that the Papal Almoner will be on the Commission. It might show the Pope’s intention to make of the Almoner a critical position in the management of the resources – and of a piece with the decision to make the Almoner’s office a Dicastery for Charity (according to the draft of the Curia reform still under discussion).
The prefect of Propaganda Fide is the other new entry. The Congregation for the Evangelization of People, by the way, has always managed its fund and resources since its foundation.
These new appointments seem to follow the rationale that all the Vatican investments will be centralized. The shift in investment policy will particularly affect the Secretariat of State, which has an administration of its own that was also dubbed to be “the Vatican’s third bank,” after the IOR and the APSA, which is supposed to function as a central bank. “Third bank” is an improper description since State’s outfit isn’t a bank and neither of the other two is a bank in the proper sense, either, but it gives the idea.
However, this is a step towards the marginalization of the Secretariat of State.
It is impossible to know how much the recent financial scandals have affected the Pope’s decision. We are now back at the beginning of the pontificate when it seemed that the Secretariat of State would be dismantled, or at least losing some of its traction within the Curia. It is noteworthy that Pope Francis did not even include the Secretary of State in the first group of the Council of Cardinals. Cardinal Parolin was added later to the group.
Given the Curia reform, Pope Francis has basically kept his most trusted men in critical positions, like Cardinal Santos y Avril, and steadily moves toward changes.
The new Cardinals commission is now expected to appoint the seven members of the Superintendency Council, the “lay board”. It is possible Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, the president of the board, will be confirmed. According to the IOR statutes, the committee members will be appointed for a five-year term, renewable just once.