Today the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has selected a small group of cardinals from around the world to form a council “to advise him in the governance of the Universal Church.” The headline on the Vatican Radio report specifies “Curia reform” as the council’s purview. From the Vatican Secretariat of State communique on the advisory body:
The Holy Father Francis, taking up a suggestion that emerged during the General Congregations preceding the Conclave, has established a group of cardinals to advise him in the government of the universal Church and to study a plan for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, ‘Pastor Bonus’.
The group consists of:
Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State;
Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, archbishop emeritus of Santiago de Chile, Chile;
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India;
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany;
Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo;
Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley O.F.M., archbishop of Boston, USA;
Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia;
Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in the role of coordinator; and
Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, in the role of secretary.
The group’s first meeting has been scheduled for 1-3 October 2013. His Holiness is, however, currently in contact with the aforementioned cardinals.
Significantly, only one of these cardinals—Cardinal Bertello—is currently a member of the Curia. Pastor Bonus, the document that will be studied for revision by the group, defines the structure and various roles of the Curia, including the Secretariat of State and the various congregations and pontifical councils.
Rocco Palmo has further details on some of the cardinals making up this new advisory body:
Beyond Bertello, the only other member of the group with Curial experience is ErrÁzuriz, a member of the Schoenstatt movement who served as Secretary of the “Congregation for Religious” from 1990-96.
… As for the group’s coordinator, despite having served as archbishop of the Honduran capital since 1993, Rodríguez (above) – like ErrÁzuriz, another past president of CELAM – is a well-known figure on the Roman scene thanks both his days in the continental post and his current side-role as president of Caritas Internationalis, the federation of the global church’s charitable and humanitarian-aid agencies. In the latter capacity, the 70 year-old cardinal was involved in a scrap with B16’s Curia over its 2012 push to overhaul Caritas, a process which saw the forced departure of the group’s secretary-general, Leslie Ann Knight, allegedly for having been overtly “critical of the Vatican machine.”
In a similar vein, the famously-combative Pell – the only non-Curialist in the four-man group convoked last year by Benedict – had been tipped in 2010 as the now-retired Pope’s choice to lead the Congregation for Bishops, but the plan fell apart after a vicious “dirty pool” effort behind the walls succeeded in its intent to block Pell’s appointment.
Put bluntly, by calling in figures who have clashed to a considerable degree with the Establishment he’s inherited, Francis is bringing the Curia’s chickens home to roost.
Last month, Vatican expert Sandro Magister speculated that Pope Francis might establish a “council of the crown” made up of cardinals from each continent, suggesting that those cardinals be chosen from among the delegates elected by the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops and meet with the Holy Father once a month. While the advisory body announced today isn’t structured in this way and won’t be meeting until October, having formed a group “to advise him in the governance of the Universal Church,” it does seem that Francis is living up to Magister’s description as “a pope…who wants to feel from Rome the pulse of the worldwide Church.”