Major appointments awaited after cardinals' October meeting

Cardinals greet each other after the consistory on November 24 2012 in St Peters Basilica CNA Vatican Catholic News 11 24 12 Cardinals greet each other after the consistory on Nov. 24, 2012 in St. Peter's Basilica.

Despite rumors about the supposedly imminent appointment of a new Secretary of State, Pope Francis will not be making any major appointments before October, Vatican insiders maintain.

"Pope Francis is not in a hurry to appoint a new Secretary of State, and he could also decide to keep Bertone at his post until he will turn 80," a source familiar with the Vatican Secretariat of State who asked for anonymity told CNA Aug. 20.

On Oct. 1-3, the "Gang of Eight" group of cardinals on reforming the Roman Curia will meet, and the source disavowed any changes to the secretariat of state before that assembly.

In fact, pressure for the replacement of Cardinal Bertone as Secretary of State began long before Benedict XVI's resignation.

Despite critics, innuendos and accusations, Benedict XVI always want to keep Cardinal Bertone at his post, stating publicly several times his trust in his prime collaborator.

During the pre-conclave meeting in March, cardinals highlighted several criticisms of the secretariate of state, and asked for more collegiality.

Pope Francis responded to the cardinals' suggestions and requests by appointing on April 13 the group of eight cardinals to advise him about a possible Curia reform.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, one of the group's members, signaled in a March 4 interview with CNA that the pre-conclave meetings helped the cardinals to discuss "the Church's governing body."

A curial reform is needed to improve the relationships among the various departments of the Church's central governing body and the universal Church, he added.

The appointment of this group of cardinals raised expectation for a curial reform and encouraged speculations about a new Secretary of State to be appointed soon.

It had been strongly rumored that Pope Francis would have made public the appointment of the new Secretary of State on June 29, and since it did not occur it is now rumored that Cardinal Bertone will have to step down in September.

In fact, the anonymous source said in conversation that "Pope Francis does not seem to want to take any major decision before the October 1-3 meeting of the group of cardinals. And even after that meeting, he could decide to keep Bertone at his post."

"Pope Francis does not want give the impression of repudiating Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate," the source asserted.

On the one hand, "getting rid of Cardinal Bertone in the midst of a long-term campaign against him could be seen as an evidence of Bertone's wrongdoing, and so also as evidence of Benedict XVI's incompetence in choosing his collaborators."

On the other hand, keeping Cardinal Bertone at his post would not even damage Pope Francis' image, as the secretariate of state has been exerting less influence during his pontificate.

According to the Vaticanista Sandro Magister, "the State Secretariat continues its routine work, but much more at work is another secretariat, miniscule but highly active, which in direct service to the Pope attends to the matters that he wants to resolve himself, without any interference whatsoever."

It is also possible that the importance of the secretariat of state will be diminished after the curial reform.

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In fact, a possible reform of the Roman Curia has been much discussed during recent years.

A monsignor working in a Pontifical Council who asked for anonymity told CNA Aug. 20 that a draft of such a reform was sketched out in 2005, shortly before Blessed John Paul II's death.

That draft had suggested creating a committee composed of the prefects of Congregations and some trusted cardinals charged with managing the Church. This committee would take over the first set of duties currently carried out by the secretariat of state.

Thus, the state secretariat would only deal with the relations with states, not Church governance.

Ultimately, the governance of the Holy See would be run by a sort of pyramid structure: on the top, the management committee, a sort of council of cardinals; then the Congregations; and the Pontifical Council, which would become a sort of department in the ministries.

This sketch, the source maintains, "has been quietly proposed" to Pope Francis, and, with some modifications, "can be one of the proposal to be discussed by the group of eight cardinals."

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