June 06, 2019

What does Caritas Internationalis reform mean?

By Andrea Gagliarducci
Vatican City - September 27, 2017: Press Conference on Share the Journey, a Caritas International initiative - Credit  Daniel Ibáñez/ ACI Group
Vatican City - September 27, 2017: Press Conference on Share the Journey, a Caritas International initiative - Credit Daniel Ibáñez/ ACI Group

Caritas Internationalis is “the umbrella” of 165 Catholic relief service spread all over the world. Its 21st general assembly took place from May 22 through the 28th. The assembly confirmed Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as president and appointed Aloysius John as general secretary. At the end of the meeting, it was made public a decree of the Vatican Secretary of State that updated the statutes. 

The decree was issued on May 22. In the end, the decree presents no substantial news: Caritas Internationalis primary reference within the Roman Curia was previously the Pontifical Council Cor Unum; now, it is the dicastery for the Service of the Integral Human Development. 

Nothing special in that: the Pontifical Council Cor Unum no longer exists and has been absorbed by the new dicastery. 

The update of the statutes is however essential because it reveals something of the rationale of the Curia reform, especially for what concerns the role of the Secretariat of State. 

Pope Francis has until now carried forward the Roman Curia reform on two parallel tracks: on the one hand, the Pope decided to establish new dicasteries with new statutes; on the other hand, Pope Francis is leading an ongoing consultation with the Council of Cardinals, which led to the drafting of the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium

The new Constitution was supposed to be published by the end of the month: it seems it will not. However, anticipations on the draft of the Constitution are already circulating. The debate is open. 

The anticipations generally focus on the new missionary dicastery and on the fact that it will be more important than the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, there is one Curia office that seems to remain untouched: the Secretariat of State. It must not be underestimated. 

Initial proposals of Curia reform aimed at dismantling the Vatican Secretariat of State. One of the ideas was to split the two sections into two different secretariats as part of a group of four bureaus designed to oversee the Curia.

Step by step, the Secretariat of State regained its centrality among the Curia offices. The decree on Caritas Internationalis is one of the profs of the Secretariat of State renewed importance.

As said, the decree is not big news.

Caritas Internationalis underwent a major reform in 2012. After the reform of the statutes, Pontifical Council Cor Unum became competent for Caritas Internationalis. Since Cor Unum has been absorbed by the new “super-dicastery” for the integral human development, the statute needed to be updated.

The 2012 Caritas Internationalis reform also gave some specific tasks to the Secretariat of State, which got confirmed.

Cardinal Piero Parolin’s decree on Caritas Internationalis clearly spells the competences of the Secretariat of State on the confederation and also described the competencies entrusted to the section for the general affairs and those assigned to the section for the relation with the States. 

The 2012 statutes presented nearly the same issues, except for some smoothed paragraphs and some adjustments due to other reform, like the new law for the Vatican City State. 

It is noteworthy that the 2012 reform was part of a more extensive Benedict XVI’s project to accomplish the Pastor Bonus provisions fully. Pastor Bonus is the Apostolic Constitution that regulates functions and tasks of the Curia offices. Issued in 1988 by St. John Paul II, it will be replaced by the Praedicate Evangelium. According to the Pastor Bonus, the Secretariat of State had to coordinate the work of all the other dicasteries. 

From the financial reform to the Caritas Internationalis, all of Benedict XVI’s moves were considered part of a plan to centralize issues. Benedict XVI was trying to achieve more coordination among dicasteries. 

The Curia reform discussions focused a lot on the need for coordination. The first talk also advanced the possibility to establish “moderator Curiae” (moderator of the Curia) for that purpose. 

The proposal for a moderator of the Curia soon fell, while the Secretariat of State took back step by step all of its competences: from a dicastery to be dismantled to a central body of the Curia. 

The amendments to Caritas Internationalis statute confirm the centrality of Secretariat of State. 

In the end, the many anticipations of the new Constitution Praedicate Evangelium focused on the establishment of a new missionary “super-dicastery” or of a dicastery of charity, but little is said about the Secretariat of State. 

In the end, the Secretariat of State will keep its name and its role. It is not anymore the time of (total) revolution. 
 

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.