Analysis: What is next for Curial reform?

Pope Francis arrives in St Peters Square for the general audience Sept 21 2016 Credit Daniel Ibez CNA Pope Francis. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The next gathering of the Council of Cardinals, also known as the C9, will take place Dec. 10-12. It will likely be the last meeting of the council as it is presently constituted.

Pope Francis is expected to reshape the Council of Cardinals, and there are some rumors that new members of the council will be announced before the Dec. 10-12 gathering.

The complete ranks of the council have not met together for more than one year, as Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, left in June 2017 to stand trial in Australia over abuse allegations.  

Cardinal Francis Javier Errazuriz Ossa is not likely to take part in the next meeting either. He reportedly came to Rome recently tender his resignation from the council, although there has been no official Vatican communication about that yet.

Cardinal Laurent Mosengwo Pasinya, archbishop emeritus of Kinshasa, could also be replaced if Francis remakes the council. The cardinal is 79, and retired from diocesan ministry Nov. 1.

A reshuffle of the council is also expected because the C9 was officially established Sept. 28, 2013. If the Council of Cardinals follows the same rules as the Roman Curial offices, the council memberships have already expired, because similar positions in the Curia are given for five-year terms.

But the biggest indicator of a reshuffle is a press release delivered at the end of the last C9 meeting, which took place in September.

The release said that "the Council of Cardinals asked the pope for a reflection on the work, structure, and composition of the council itself, taking into account the age of some members."

Cardinal Sean O'Malley seems likely keep his position, to bring into the council his experience in countering the sex abuse scandal.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias will also likely remain part of the council: Pope Francis showed his trust in Gracias by appointing him a member of the preparatory committee for the Feb. 21-24 anti-abuse meeting in the Vatican.
It seems to be taken almost for granted that Pell, Pasinya and Errazuriz will not be included in the new membership.
To represent Latin America, Cardinal Pedro Barreto, Archbishop of Huancayo, Peru, is rumored to be at the top of the list. He is also on the preparatory committee for the 2019 synod on the pan-Amazonian region.
There will be open positions for representatives from Oceania and Africa, though it is not yet clear who Pope Francis will appoint for those spots.

At the end of the last meeting, the council also announced that a draft document delineating structural reforms of the Roman Curia had been given to the pope for his final approval. The reform document is reportedly outlined in an apostolic constitution, provisionally titled Praedicate evangelium, "Preach the Gospel."

Bishop Marcello Semeraro, secretary of the Council of Cardinals, said that the title of the constitution emerged during the C9's 2015 meetings. The constitution would replace the apostolic constitution Pastor bonus issued in 1989 by St. John Paul II.

There will likely soon be other changes in the ranks of the Roman Curia.

The board of cardinals governing the Institute for Religious Works(IOR), the Vatican bank, will expire in February.

Currently, Cardinal Santos Avril y Castellò, archpriest emeritus of Saint Mary Major, chairs the board. Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Josip Bozanic, Christopher Collins and Christoph Schoenborn are board members.

Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran was also part of the IOR board, but he died in July and has not been replaced. It seems that Pope Francis will wait for the expiration of the entire board in order to reconstitute the membership.

As long as there are no new confirmations or new appointments, things will likely remain as they are.

More in Vatican

The reform of the Roman Curia reform will reshape the curial offices, but it will not solve some pragmatic issues.

The pope discussed some of these issues in a Nov. 26 meeting with the heads of Vatican dicasteries.

Cardinals Angelo Becciu and Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello delivered initial remarks at that meeting. Cardinal Becciu served for 7 years as "deputy" to the Vatican Secretariat of State, while Cardinal Bertello is president of the Vatican City State's administration.
The two reports were about the role and tasks of the 4,500 Holy See employees.
Most of the discussion was about expenses, and in fact – a source familiar with curial reform told CNA – "all the reforming issue is about reducing costs, not rethinking the Curia."

Sustainable costs and reduction of turnover were discussed. It was noted that people who reach retirement age will not be replaced.
The hiring freeze is not a new provision. At the beginning of 2014, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, delivered a letter to every head of dicasteries of the Roman Curia announcing that policy.
"The economic outlook for the Holy See in 2014 requires immediate measures to limit spending on personnel," the letter read.
The economic measures also included ending overtime or work on Sundays.
Four years later, with an economic reform started and a commission set up to reform the Vatican pension plan, the issues seem to remain the same.
On the other hand, Pope Francis said he is principally concerned about the pastoral and spiritual care of those who work in the Apostolic See.
During his pontificate, the pope has made two moves to demonstrate that.
The first was a letter he sent to Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, when he made the decision to elevate t Fernando Vergez to the rank of archbishop, after he had appointed him general secretary of the Vatican City State administration.
The letter was dated Oct. 13, 2013, two months after the appointment, which took place Aug. 30, 2013.
In the letter, Pope Francis said he made the decision to elevate Vergez to the rank of archbishop to demonstrate the importance of his tasks, especially the work of "taking care directly of the human and Christian formation of employees and collaborators", and of "coordinating priests entrusted with spiritual assistance already in charge of Vatican offices."
Archbishop Vergez was also given the task to "promote opportune initiatives, especially along with pastoral programs of the universal Church and in important moments of the liturgical year."
The second move was the pope's 2017 decision to establish a third section within the Vatican Secretariat of State.
In the letter that established the third section, dated Nov. 9, 2017, Pope Francis explained that his decision was motivated by the need to provide "more human, priestly, spiritual and professional accompaniment" to those who are "in the diplomatic service of the Holy See," whether they are head of mission or even students at the Ecclesiastical Academy, where young priests are trained for diplomatic service.
Pope Francis reportedly reiterated the importance of pastoral care during the Nov. 26 meeting. He also invited Curial officials to take part in some pastoral activities in Roman parishes on weekends.
Among proposal floated at the meeting was that of hiring priests with a five-year contract, so that they were not linked forever to the Curia, but just for a specified amount of time before getting back to their diocese.
These provisions could likely be a part of the new apostolic constitution, Praedicate Evangelium, as in fact much of the reforms previewed are already in effect.

In the five years of his pontificate, Pope Francis established the Secretariat and the Council for the Economy, merged four dicasteries into the Dicastery for the Service to the Integral Human Development and two dicasteries plus an academy into the Dicastery Laity, Family and Life.

He also started the media reform with the creation of a Secretariat for Communication, later renamed a Dicastery for Communication, and reorganized the Secretariat of State with the introduction of the third section.
Beyond that, there will likely be minor structural adjustments. The appointment of Msgr. Marco Mellino as adjunct secretary to the Council of Cardinals will provide the necessary help to make the final text consistent with canon law. Msgr. Mellino will also assist in the drafting of a new regulation for the Roman Curia.

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