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Vatican reform process ‘nearly complete,’ C9 member says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ international Council of Cardinals, the so-called C9, is nearly done with its work of advising the pope on a major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, the secretary of the council said.

Pope Francis leads the 18th meeting of his Council of Cardinals at the Vatican Feb. 13. Seated to the left of the pope are: Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, secretary of the council; Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the council; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Cardinal George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy. Seated at right are: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, secretary of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, told Vatican Radio Sept. 11 that “as far as the reform process of the Roman Curia is concerned, it is even more than three-quarters of the way there; it is almost complete.”

“It is nearly complete at the level of proposals made to the pope,” he said.

The Council of Cardinals was meeting at the Vatican Sept. 11-13. Pope Francis, who returned from his visit to Colombia Sept. 11, did not attend the first day’s meeting.

Bishop Semeraro told Vatican Radio of the council’s work in advising the pope on the reform of the Vatican’s organization and church governance, describing it as a three-step process of “listening” to the contributions from the bishops, the Roman Curia and “many people who have written,” reflecting on those proposals and checking them over.

“Listening, reflecting, checking and then making a proposal to the pope” because the Council of Cardinals does not issue a decree; “the Council of Cardinals proposes to the pope,” he said.

Throughout their meetings, he continued, Pope Francis takes part “primarily by listening” and “intervenes when he recounts his personal experiences when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, or of current situations in the life of the church.”

The work of the council is not only dedicated to reforming the Roman Curia but to informing, advising and collaborating with Pope Francis concerning various situations in the church, Bishop Semeraro said.

One example, he added, was to discuss “the very painful reality of the abuse of minors.”

“This, in itself, is not part of the reform of the Roman Curia. Yet, the pope has decided to listen to the council, too, about these steps. And, when it comes to clarifying or intervening, the pope intervenes but with great discretion. He mostly listens,” Bishops Semeraro said.

Regarding the time frame of the reform, the Italian prelate said the final proposals dealing with all the dicasteries “will be more or less complete in a few months” and that it will be up to the pope “to decide how and when to implement them.”

“Right now the pope has preferred a gradual implementation, as well as a sort of breaking-in period. In some cases, the pope has already intervened to make corrections because in passing from theory to practice, needs for correction have emerged,” Bishop Semeraro said.

     

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Council of Cardinals publicly expresses support of pope ‘in relation to recent events’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — After a handful of public challenges to Pope Francis’ teaching and authority, the members of the pope’s international Council of Cardinals began their February meeting expressing their “full support” for his work.

Pope Francis leads the 18th meeting of his Council of Cardinals at the Vatican Feb. 13. Seated to the left of the pope are: Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, secretary of the council; Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the council; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Cardinal George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy. Seated at right are: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis leads the 18th meeting of his Council of Cardinals at the Vatican Feb. 13. Seated to the left of the pope are: Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, secretary of the council; Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the council; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Cardinal George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy. Seated at right are: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the council, began the meeting Feb. 13 assuring the pope of the cardinals’ “full support for his person and his magisterium,” according to a statement published by the Vatican press office.

The statement said the cardinals’ support was offered “in relation to recent events.”

No specific events were mentioned, but the statement came just a few days after a fake version of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, was emailed to Vatican officials and a week after posters were put up around Rome questioning the pope’s mercy in dealing with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and other groups over which the pope had placed special delegates. It also came several months after U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and three retired cardinals publicly questioned Pope Francis on the teaching in his document on the family, “Amoris Laetitia.”

Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, speaking on behalf of the Council of Cardinals, also thanked Pope Francis for the way he explained the council’s work on the reform of the Roman Curia to Vatican officials.

Meeting with members of the Curia just before Christmas, Pope Francis said the reform was motivated by a desire to ensure the central offices of the church are focused on sharing the Gospel, better meet people’s needs and assist the pope in his ministry of service to the church and the world.

“We cannot be content simply with changing personnel; we need to encourage spiritual, human and professional renewal among the members of the Curia,” the pope had said. “The reform of the Curia is in no way implemented with a change of personnel, something that certainly is happening and will continue to happen, but with a conversion in persons. Continuing formation is not enough; what we need also and above all is continuing conversion and purification. Without a change of mentality, efforts at practical improvement will be in vain.”

In addition to Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, the council members are: Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; George Pell, head of the Secretariat of the Economy; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

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With reorganization, cardinals named to Roman Curia offices

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Giving assignments to 15 of the cardinals he created in February, Pope Francis named some of them members of pontifical councils widely expected to be merged with others.

In the months following their induction into the College of Cardinals, those who who are under the age of 80 are named members of various Vatican congregations and councils; while the day-to-day work of Vatican offices is carried out by the staff, the direction and major decisions of the offices are determined by the full membership.

As Pope Francis began another three-day meeting April 13 with his international Council of Cardinals to discuss the reorganization of the Roman Curia, the Vatican published the list of his assignments for the cardinals created in February.

Several of them were assigned to the pontifical councils for justice and peace, Cor Unum, migrants and travelers, and health care ministry — all offices that had been expected to merge into a new Congregation for Charity, Justice and Peace.

In February, the entire College of Cardinals was briefed about the Council of Cardinals’ progress, including proposals to create the new charity, justice and peace congregation. They also heard of plans to establish a Congregation for Laity, Family and Life, merging the current pontifical councils for laity and for the family, along with the Pontifical Academy for Life. No new members of the councils for laity or for the family were announced in the slate released April 13.

Among the assignments, Pope Francis named Cardinal John A. Dew of Wellington, New Zealand, to be a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Spanish Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, a theologian and president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, was the only one of the new cardinals named a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The youngest member of the College of Cardinals, Tonga’s 53-year-old Cardinal Soane Mafi, was named a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable giving.

Portuguese Cardinal Manuel Macario do Nascimento Clemente of Lisbon and Thai Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok were named to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

 

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Pope’s finance chief talks Vatican reform

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis wants a “poor church for the poor,” but that “doesn’t necessarily mean a church with empty coffers,” said Cardinal George Pell, “and it certainly doesn’t mean a church that is sloppy or inefficient or open to being robbed.”

A month after unveiling a “new economic framework for the Holy See,” including a host of changes to the Vatican’s financial structures, the cardinal discussed the meaning of those reforms and the challenges to their implementation in an interview with Catholic News Service.

Cardinal Pell, a former archbishop of Sydney whom the pope named in February to the new office of prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, spoke to CNS about a range of issues, including Vatican financial scandals; the need for more transparency, “checks and balances” and oversight by laypeople; efforts to internationalize the Vatican bureaucracy while reducing its overall size; and the relative importance of his own role in the church’s central administration, the Roman Curia. Read more »

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Assignment: Reorganize the Curia — Pope and Council of Cardinals are working to reform an ancient bureaucracy

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals continue to study the most effective and efficient way to organize the Roman Curia, a large bureaucracy with a long history of expansions and a few, short-term, attempts at consolidation.

For centuries, popes were assisted in their ministry by the cardinals meeting in consistories; the practical matters were handled by what was called the Apostolic Chancery. But as the church grew and matters became more complicated and more time-sensitive, offices were added. The first was the Sacred Congregation for the Inquisition, a tribunal established in 1542 by Pope Paul III to judge heresy and orthodoxy.

Over the next four decades, a few other offices were added, but an organized Roman Curia came into existence only with Pope Sixtus V in 1588. Read more »

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Vatican reforms still under discussion, bank changes to be announced — updated

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Consultations and assessments concerning the overhaul of the Vatican bureaucracy and its finances continued as Pope Francis met for a fifth series of meetings with his international Council of Cardinals.

The monumental scale of St. Peter’s Basilica is revealed as workers walk on the roof of the facade at the Vatican. (CNS file/Paul Haring)

Also, “further clarifications” about significant changes at the Vatican bank were “possible, indeed, likely” to be announced in the next several days, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters July 2.

In response to news stories reporting that Ernst von Freyberg, the bank’s current president, would be replaced soon, Father Lombardi said the bank “is in a time of natural and peaceful transition.”

“The contribution of Ernst von Freyberg continues to be deeply appreciated and highly valued, and further clarifications are possible, indeed likely, next week after the meeting of the Council for the Economy,” he said. Von Freyberg, a German industrialist, was appointed to head the beleaguered bank in 2013 after his predecessor, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was ousted by the bank’s board for “failure to carry out basic duties.”

 

The new Council for the Economy, an international group of eight cardinals and seven lay experts charged with setting policies for the administrative and financial activities of all Vatican offices and bodies, met July 5.

Council members were “informed about developments” relating to the Vatican bank and received last year’s final budget report as well as the 2014 budget forecast from the Vatican budget office, Father Lombardi said.

The oversight council, which Pope Francis established in February, also discussed its statutes and was to set an agenda for its future work, the spokesman said.

During its July meeting, the Council of Cardinals also delved more deeply into “the issue of the new structure” of the Vatican bank and had in attendance four of the five cardinal members of the Commission of Cardinals Overseeing the Institute for the Works of Religion, the commission overseeing the Vatican bank.

The council, originally an eight-member group advising the pope on the reform of the Vatican’s organization and church governance, officially became a group of nine members with the formal addition of Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, who had been attending their meetings all along.

Briefing the press July 4, Father Lombardi said Pope Francis had joined the cardinals for the four-day meeting. The cardinals, he said, described the discussion as “free, frank and friendly.”

The July meeting began with a review of the governing structure of Vatican City State; Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, a member of the Council of Cardinals and president of the commission governing the city-state, gave a presentation, Father Lombardi said.

The group also listened to a presentation by Cardinal Parolin about the Secretariat of State. The secretariat is divided into two large sections: one supervises a vast global diplomatic network of Vatican nuncios and the other oversees the work of the entire Roman Curia. The conversation included a discussion about how the nuncios are chosen, Father Lombardi said.

In addition, Father Lombardi said, the pope and cardinals discussed how bishops currently are chosen for dioceses around the world, although he did not say if they made suggestions for changing the process.

The council is still gathering information and considering possibilities for the structure of the Roman Curia, he said, and it would be too soon “to speak of drafts” of a new apostolic constitution implementing the reforms.

The council is “taking into consideration and systematically developing the reflections already formulated in the first round of study and review of the different bodies of the Roman Curia,” he said.

At the July meeting the nine cardinals looked particularly at the pontifical councils for the laity and for the family, he said, and emphasized “the contributions of laity, married couples and women” to the work of both councils. No other council or congregation has such a high percentage of laypeople as full members.

Although rumors continue to circulate that the two councils will be combined and become a congregation, Father Lombardi said “no decision about future structures” had been made.

The Council of Cardinals set its future meetings for Sept. 15-15, Dec. 9-11 and Feb. 9-11, he said.

 

 

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Pope decides Vatican bank will stay in business

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, accepting the recommendations of his international Council of Cardinals and other advisory groups, has decided the Vatican bank will continue to exist and has approved a plan to increase its transparency and accountability.

The Vatican press office issued a statement April 7 saying the pope “has approved a proposal on the future” of the Institute for the Words of Religion (IOR), the formal title of the bank. The Vatican, however, did not release details of the proposal.

In June 2013, Pope Francis established a commission to review the activities of the Vatican bank, asking the five commission members to study whether the bank was in harmony with the mission of the universal church.

During a news conference in July on his flight back from Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis said some people had suggested the institute should be transformed into a “charitable fund, others say it should be closed. I don’t know. I have confidence in the work of the people at IOR, who are working a lot, and in the commission” studying the bank.

“Whatever it ends up being, whether a bank or a charitable fund, transparency and honesty are essential,” he said.

The pope spoke only a few weeks after the bank’s director and deputy director both resigned, following the previous month’s arrest of an account holder, Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, on charges of fraud, corruption and slander. In 2010, Italian treasury police seized 23 million euros that the Vatican bank had deposited in a Rome bank account, but later released the funds when new financial laws, promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI, went into effect.

While not providing details on proposed changes for the bank, the Vatican’s April 7 statement seemed intended to reassure the bank’s employees and clients that the institute would have a future.

“The IOR will continue to serve with prudence and provide specialized financial services to the Catholic Church worldwide,” the statement said. “The valuable services that can be offered by the institute assist the Holy Father in his mission as universal pastor and also aid those institutions and individuals who collaborate with him in his ministry.”

The Vatican statement said Australian Cardinal George Pell, head of the Vatican’s new Secretariat for the Economy, has asked the bank’s president and management to finalize plans and procedures “to ensure that the IOR can fulfill its mission as part of the new financial structures of the Holy See-Vatican City State.”

The plan, it said, will be given to Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, which is scheduled to meet in late April and again in July, and to the Council for the Economy, an international group of cardinals and lay experts appointed to set economic and financial policies for the Vatican and all its offices.

The Vatican statement also confirmed the continuing role of the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority to ensure the Vatican bank cannot be used for money laundering or the financing of terrorism.

The “strict regulatory supervision and improvements in compliance, transparency and operations initiated in 2012 and substantially accelerated in 2013 are critical” for the bank’s future, the Vatican statement said.

At the end of 2012, the IOR had approximately 18,900 customers, about half of whom were religious orders. Vatican offices and nunciatures (Vatican embassies around the world) accounted for about 15 percent of the clientele, while about 13 percent of the accounts belonged to cardinals, bishops and priests, and 9 percent belonged to dioceses. Most of the remaining accounts were held by Vatican employees and religious education institutes, according to a report released by the bank in October.

 

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Q&A: Cardinal O’Malley calls pope’s impact on church ‘amazing”

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Catholic News Service

BOSTON — Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley spoke to The Pilot, the archdiocesan newspaper, March 4 about the impact Pope Francis has had on the Catholic Church and the world since his March 13, 2013, election. The interview was conducted at his residence at the Cathedral the Holy Cross in Boston.

Q: How would you characterize the first year of Pope Francis’ pontificate?

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley gestures during a March 4 interview at his residence, the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Cardinal O’Malley said with his “refreshing style” and accessibility, Pope Francis’ impact on the world is “amazing.” (CNS photo/Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot)

A: For many people it has been a year of surprises. The Holy Father has such a refreshing style and a desire to be close to people and accessible. He is even accessible in the way he expresses himself. He has made quite an impact on the world. I don’t remember any other pope whose daily homily was followed so assiduously by so many around the globe. Before, we used to think that the Holy Father’s travel and linguistic abilities were the way he communicated, but this man communicates without leaving home and without saying anything except in Italian. It is amazing.

Q: You recently saw Pope Benedict at the Feb. 22 consistory. A year ago, the whole world was wondering what it would be like to have two living popes. What were your thoughts at the time, and what do think now?

A: It is the same as having a bishop emeritus in the diocese. It is a delicate position; the retired bishop cannot interfere, but he can be supportive and helpful. Obviously, I think that is what we are experiencing with Pope Benedict, who has publicly said that his task is going to be to pray for the church and he is leading a very contemplative existence. And yet, he is still alive and it is wonderful when he participates in some of these more public events; just as in any diocese when the former bishop is invited back to be present for the chrism Mass or some other diocesan celebration.

Q: Some are describing this papacy as a kind of break with the past, rather than continuity with a different style. How would you describe this papacy compared to the previous papacies?

A: In my lifetime every papacy has been very different from the one that went before. As a child, it was Pius XII and he was an aristocrat, very ascetic. He sort of exuded holiness and there was a great reverence and awe about his person. But he ate alone; he was very isolated. Suddenly there comes John XXIII who was entirely different. He had a great sense of humor, he was always joking, was very close to people, came from peasant stock. Even physically, he looked so different. And then we had Paul VI who was in many ways a more modern pope. He began to travel. And then of course John Paul II whose papacy had such a profound influence on the situation in the world, changed the Iron Curtain. The Holy Father became present personally to millions and millions of Catholics. So each pope has been very, very different.

Obviously this is the first pope from Latin America. His whole pastoral experience has been much different from that of European bishops and he certainly brings a freshness and excitement to the task. But, when you look at the history of the church, we have had popes who have been so different one from another and even as I say, in modern history. Each one brings his own gifts and we have been so blessed by the presence of popes who have been holy men, very wise men, very pastoral men, and whose leadership has been a very positive thing in the life of the church. This has not always been the case in our 2000 year history, but certainly in modern history we been blessed by the popes that we have had.

Q: At last year’s consistory right before the conclave, then-Cardinal Bergoglio spoke about his views on the current state of the Catholic Church. Those themes have characterized his first year as Pope Francis. One of them was how the church needs to come out of herself and go to the peripheries, geographical and existential. Why is this emphasis important today?

A: There is always a danger of the church retreating to the sacristy and abdicating our responsibility to do precisely what Jesus tells us to do, make disciples of all nations, to leave behind the 99 and go in search of the one lost sheep. The Lord in the Gospels is always reaching out to people on the periphery; the lame, the blind, the halt, the tax collector, the prostitute, the foreigner and the Lord brings them center stage. So, the Holy Father is simply reminding us that this is what the Gospel is about, that these people on the periphery become the protagonists of Jesus’s ministry and they need to be the object of our love and our pastoral care.

Q: Another topic the pope spoke about was the danger of spiritual worldliness in the Catholic Church that may require a push for reform. How do you see that playing out now?

A: Well, the Holy Father is concerned about careerism in the church and he is constantly reminding people that the Holy Father is not a monarch surrounded by a court, but is a bishop of the community of faith and that is the perspective that he wants to communicate and for people to embrace. His decision to live at the Domus Sanctae Marthae is certainly not because the apartments in the apostolic palace are so luxurious, but because he does not want to be isolated. He wants to be part of the community and be connected to people. For him, the culture of encounter is what the church needs to be about and he is certainly modeling that for us in so many ways.

Q: Regarding that reform, you were appointed to the Holy Father’s “G-8” Council of Cardinals last April and recently returned from Rome, where you attended the third meeting of the council. Why do you think reforming the Roman Curia is such an important issue?

A: The Roman Curia is not a very large organization, but it is the only organization that the Holy Father has to help him perform his ministry. Obviously, he wants the Curia to be at the service of the universal church and to do that there needs to be greater efficiency, transparency, collaboration among the different departments, or dicasteries as they are called, and a greater focus on collegiality, involvement with bishops around the world and the local churches. I think the Holy Father feels a very strong mandate because prior to the conclave it is something the cardinals spoke about so much.

Of course, it all took place within the context of Vatileaks and all the other problems that have surfaced about the Vatican bank. These situations should never exist and the Holy Father is striving to make a Curia that will be more pastoral and will be at the service of the entire church and be able to communicate that vision and enthusiasm for the joy of the Gospel that he is always preaching about. He is also concerned about the spiritual welfare of the people in the Curia. He wants them to feel that they are there not just for a job, but they are part of a mission and that mission comes from Christ. To be able to carry it out we need to attend to our own interior life so that we have a sense of vocation and that we are being led by God’s grace to seek God’s will and to embrace it joyfully and generously in our lives.

Q: Beyond the ongoing work to reform “Pastor Bonus” (Blessed John Paul’s 1988 apostolic constitution on the structure and responsibilities of the Curia), so far two main outcomes from the group have been announced: a commission to work on child abuse prevention worldwide and the creation of a new economy secretariat to oversee Vatican finances. Can you comment on their importance?

A: The focus of the commission will be child protection. In other words, to make sure that all of the practices of the church are geared towards creating safe environments and having in place practices that will help; not just how to respond in cases of abuse, but how to avoid it. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, particularly when it is something as tragic as child abuse. The Holy Father is very committed to a policy of no tolerance and is anxious to have this commission formed to be able to work with the bishops’ conferences who have been asked to develop clear guidelines and policies around this whole area of child protection. We are very edified by how many people have already volunteered to be a part of this.

Q: The other development was the creation of this new Economy Secretariat headed by Cardinal Pell….

A: I think it is very, very important. There were two commissions working very hard. The former commission of Benedict XVI that was looking at the bank and now the commission the Holy Father has had looking at the overall financial picture of the Vatican. It is a question of stewardship, of trying to make sure the church’s resources, which are limited, are used for the mission of the church, for the works of mercy, the care of the poor, for works of evangelization. We want to avoid any waste and to make sure that there is great transparency so that people have trust that when they make a donation to the church will be used for the purposes for which it has been entrusted to the church.

Cardinal Pell is an extraordinary individual; he is a man of great, great energy and vision and determination. He has been involved in many of these issues in the Holy See for a long time so he has an understanding of the challenges. It was very generous of him to be willing to sacrifice his own ministry in the Archdiocese of Sydney to come to Rome and dedicate himself to this very important work. I told the Holy Father that the job was very difficult; it requires a rugby player.

Q: One of the perceptions about this papacy is that the pope is going to change church teaching. What is your reaction to that?

A: I like the phrase that someone said, that he is not changing the lyrics but only the melody. Sometimes the church’s message was perhaps too harshly presented to people and out of context. He is trying to show us the whole context of the demands of discipleship. The whole context is in the context of God’s love and mercy and desire to accompany us and to forgive us when we fall and to help us overcome our weaknesses and to have a sense of connectedness to the Lord and to one another.

Q: But there is a widespread opinion that changes are going to take place not only on style but on substance, for instance, on the current norms for divorced and remarried Catholics. Would you comment on that perception?

A: Obviously, when it comes to the church’s teaching on the permanence of marriage, there is no way to change that. Now, the Holy Father and many people would obviously like to see a possibility for people to reconnect with the sacraments. Many of the cardinals were insistent that we must look for better ways to do annulments in a way that can be done with greater expediency. But this is certainly something that will be talked about and discussed at the upcoming synods. Regardless of whatever happens, the church’s teaching on the permanence of marriage is not something that can ever be changed.

Q: The pope has made some high profile statements on homosexuality and pro-life issues that people are seeing as a change in direction. What is your perspective on what the pope has said and on how it is being interpreted across the Catholic Church and society at large?

A: The church’s teachings, particularly when they are demanding on people’s lives, often are rejected out of hand. I think, as I said before, the Holy Father is trying to give us the context in which we live those teachings. That context is one of living God’s love and his mercy and to be instruments of mercy in the world, helping people find the strength to live a life of discipleship that cannot be lived alone but in community. The Holy Father talks about the art of accompaniment and the culture of encounter and in our culture, which is so individualistic, the demands of the Gospel of course become impossible. When a person becomes truly part of a community of faith and begins to experience the joy of the Gospel the Holy Father is always speaking about, they experience God’s love in their life; then what before seemed impossible and unreasonable suddenly becomes feasible and begins to make sense.

Q: The Holy Father’s first trip outside the Vatican was to the Italian island of Lampedusa where he spoke about the plight of immigrants. Do you think that his emphasis on immigration will have an impact on the U.S. immigration debate?

A: I hope so. The Holy Father talked about the globalization of indifference and we cannot be indifferent to human suffering. We cannot pretend that people are not trying to get into Europe and into the United States; they are trying to escape some horrific economic or political situations to be able to have a better life for their children. I remember when I was bishop in Florida, there were boats arriving, rafts really, and small boats arriving from Cuba and Haiti to Florida and after the Red Mass we were having breakfast with the governor, who was Jeb Bush at the time, and I said to him, “You know Mr. Bush, if the O’Malleys and the Bushes were in Haiti now, they’d be building a boat.”

The other thing is that, as I always say, Europe would love to have our problems. The immigrants who come here, their children will be Americans. Despite the xenophobia and some of the problems we have, we are a nation of immigrants and people do assimilate into this country and they have brought such energy and such a work ethic and family values and other wonderful things that have redounded to the strength and glory of this country. To pretend that somehow immigration is bad for us is nonsense.

Q: The pope has spoken of the church as a field hospital. What do you think is the role of the church as society becomes more secularized?

A: I see it, particularly in the United States, as moving away from being a cultural Catholicism, a tribal Catholicism where if you were Italian, Polish or Irish, you automatically received all the sacraments and went to church and so forth. And now it is becoming much more intentional, depending much more on the individual. This will mean a new kind of evangelization that will be much more focused on meeting each individual and personally inviting them and mentoring them in the life of faith. We can no longer depend on cultural background to be enough. Where that is as a starting point, that’s wonderful, but the personal conversion to the Lord and the experience of his love and grace in our lives and a sense of community is all very important. Obviously a priest cannot do this on his own. The new evangelization is going to depend very much on an army of lay people feeling responsible for their church and for them to be messengers of the good news to their families, their neighbors and the community at large.

Q: The past year has been full of very important moments. What do you anticipate moving forward?

A: It is hard to forecast but obviously the enthusiasm that the Holy Father’s simplicity, joy and accessibility has created, not just in our own Catholic community, but in the larger society, is something that I think has been helpful to the world. Even the situation in Syria where the Holy Father called for prayer and a solution was found. It was a very moving thing; we are reminded that when we all come together in faith and hope and put our trust in the Lord and when we invoke his guidance and blessing on our endeavors that wonderful things can happen.

Enrique is the editor of The Pilot, newspaper of the Boston archdiocese.

 

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Pope, cardinal advisers discussing reform of Vatican offices

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis met for the third time in late February with his international Council of Cardinals, an eight-member group advising him on the reform of the Vatican bureaucracy and other issues.

Pope Francis made his international advisory panel on church governance a permanent council of cardinals. He was scheduled to meet for the first time with the panel Oct. 1. The eight are from top, left to right: Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, Australian Cardinal George Pell and Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga. (CNS photos)

The Feb. 17-19 meetings focused on financial and bureaucratic matters even as the council was rumored to be working on a draft of an apostolic constitution that would reorganize the church’s central administration, the Roman Curia.

The eight cardinals joined Pope Francis the first morning for Mass in his residence, where the pope preached patience.

Spoiled children and the haughty want everything immediately, the pope said. The Gospels even recount stories of people demanding Jesus perform miracles to prove that God is with him.

“They confuse God’s way of acting with that of a sorcerer,” the pope said at the Feb. 17 Mass. “But God does not behave like a sorcerer, God has his own way of proceeding.”

“Christians must live their lives in time with the music of patience,” the pope said, “because it is the music of our fathers, of the people of God, of those who believed in his word, who followed the commandment that the Lord gave to our father Abraham: ‘Walk before me and be blameless.’”

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, was asked about rumors that the council could have a draft of a Curia reorganization plan ready as early as May. “I have the impression that this is a work that is going forward intensely,” he replied, but it does not seem to be on the verge of finishing.

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa told the French newspaper La Croix that the council was considering putting a married couple at the head of the Pontifical Council for the Family and he repeated the idea that the reformed Curia could have a Congregation for the Laity rather than the lower-ranked pontifical council.

Father Lombardi said his impression was that those ideas were being discussed, but that nothing had been proposed formally yet.

When the council met in December, it began an overview of Vatican offices by focusing on the existing congregations, he said. The fact that the cardinals have not even started reviewing the pontifical councils seems to indicate they have a way to go before coming up with a comprehensive plan.

In reviewing the Vatican bureaucracy and the governance of the universal church, the pope and the cardinals began Feb. 17 with a discussion of the Vatican’s financial operations, meeting in the morning with three members of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See. The commission is investigating accounting practices in Vatican offices to devise strategies for greater fiscal responsibility and transparency.

The second day of the pope’s meeting with the council also was dedicated to financial matters, but looking more specifically at the activities and mission of the so-called Vatican bank. The morning meeting included a discussion with four of the five members of a commission the pope established in June to look at the Institute for the Works of Religion, the bank’s formal title. Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard law professor, was not in Rome, so did not participate in the meeting, Father Lombardi said.

The commission gave the cardinals a “full report,” Father Lombardi said, and the cardinals responded with many questions. The focus, the spokesman said, is not on the internal workings or even some of the recent scandals involving the Vatican bank, but on whether and how it serves the mission of the church.

The final day of the pope’s meeting with his cardinal-councilors was to include a conversation with the 15-member Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See, which oversees budget making for the Holy See and Vatican City State.

Looking at the administrative and economic institutions of the Holy See, Father Lombardi said, the pope and cardinals are trying to put every office into context and understand how they could work together better for the good of the church.

Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, participated in all of the meetings of the Council of Cardinals, Father Lombardi said, and although he has not formally been named a member of the council, he was participating on an equal footing as the cardinals.

In addition to Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, the other members of the council are: Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; George Pell of Sydney; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

Francis X. Rocca also contributed to this story.

 

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Church entering ‘new era’ under Pope Francis, top papal adviser says

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Catholic News Service

The cardinal who heads Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals said the Catholic Church is entering a “new era” and accused critics of the pope’s statements on economic injustice of failing to “understand reality.”

Pope Francis arrives for a pastoral visit to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus near the central train station in Rome Jan. 19. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

“I’m firmly convinced we are at the dawn of a new era in the church, just as when Pope John XXIII opened its windows 50 years and made it let in fresh air,” said Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa in an interview with Germany’s Cologne-based Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger published Jan. 20.

“Francis wants to lead the church in the same direction that he himself is moved by the Holy Spirit. This means closer to the people, not enthroned above them, but alive in them,” said the cardinal, who leads the council appointed by Pope Francis to work on reform in the Roman Curia and advise him on church governance.

In addition, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said, the pope favored “above all, a simpler life and leadership” from priests and bishops in line with the “sometimes forgotten message of Jesus,” and believed they should go out to people, rather than “sitting in our administrative offices and waiting for people to come.”

He said most Catholics were “behind the pope” and added that he believed Cardinal-designate Gerhard L. Muller, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, could be less absolute in his defense of authority in the church.

“I understand it. He’s German and a German professor of theology on top of it. In his mentality, there is only right or wrong, that’s it,” said Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga.

“But I say: The world, my brother, isn’t like that. You should be slightly flexible when you hear other voices, instead of just listening and saying, no, here this is the wall. I believe he’ll get there, and understand other views. But for now he’s still only at the beginning.”

The cardinal’s remarks follow recent criticisms of Cardinal-designate Muller, formerly bishop of Regensburg, Germany, for what some bishops and cardinals see as an overly rigid stance on church teaching in some areas.

The archbishop was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to head the doctrinal congregation in July 2012 and named a cardinal by Pope Francis Jan. 12.

Speaking Jan. 21 at a Catholic university symposium in Venice, Cardinal-designate Muller said he believed church life should not be “so much concentrated on the pope and his Curia.” He said the pope’s November apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), did not, “contrary to superficial interpretations, contain any instructions for a change of direction or revolution.”

However, in the interview, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said the pope’s priority was that the church should “reach the common people,” and show compassion through “a different kind of care for the world, especially the needy.”

He added that there had been “a lot of shouting” against the pope’s “critique of capitalism” in “Evangelii Gaudium,” especially in “U.S. business circles” who did not “understand reality.”

“Who says capitalism is perfect, especially since the recent financial market crisis?” the cardinal said.

“This crisis didn’t hit the poor, but rich America and rich Europe, and it wasn’t the invention of liberation theology or the result of the ‘option for the poor.’ When no one criticizes capitalism, this is something false,” he said.

Asked about calls for the church to change its attitude to divorced and remarried Catholics, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said the church was “bound by God’s commandment” that “what God has joined together, man must not divide.”

However, he explained that there were “many ways to interpret” the commandment, and “still much room for a deeper interpretation” without reversing the teaching.

The cardinal said an October Synod of Bishops on the family would tackle new social issues such as surrogate parenthood, childless marriages and same-sex partnerships which were “not even visible on the horizon” at the last family synod in 1980.

“We have the traditional doctrine, and, of course, the traditional teaching will continue,” Cardinal Rodriquez Maradiaga said.

“But pastoral challenges require timely answers. They can’t any longer come from authoritarianism and moralism.”

He said the cardinals who elected Pope Francis in March knew that “much had to change in the church.”

He added that changes now “high on the agenda” included plans to make the Synod of Bishops a “useful and powerful tool of collegial leadership,” rather than a body “meeting in Rome every three years,” and the creation of a new Congregation for the Laity to reflect the fact that laity “constitute the vast majority of God’s people.”

A new constitution for the Curia also was planned, the cardinal said. It would replace Pope John Paul II’s 1988 apostolic constitution, “Pastor Bonus,” on the structure and responsibilities of the Curia. The cardinal promised it would be “something completely new, not just a modification or adaptation.”

“There are plenty of staff in the Curia who agree it cannot stay as it is and are supporting us with their own proposals. The Curia is by no means a monolithic bloc,” he said.

 

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