VATICAN CITY — All Vatican officials will continue in their positions “until otherwise provided,” while Pope Francis takes time for “reflection, prayer and dialogue before making any definitive appointments,” but one can expect changes to happen.
Usually, when a new pope begins his ministry, he confirms all the heads of the congregations and pontifical councils, who lost their posts at the beginning of the sede vacante period. He also reconfirms the five-year terms for the secretaries of the Vatican departments who took over the management of the offices while there was no pope.
When he issued the normal confirmation on March 16, Pope Francis only offered a two-sentence statement, and nothing is mentioned about the Vatican Secretariat of State, the second most powerful congregation.
“You should expect a lot of changes under Pope Francis’ pontificate,” said Alberto Barlocci, a reporter based in Buenos Aires and the director of the magazine Ciudad Nueva.
“With his first gestures, he wants to make a break with the past and signal that the Church is something different from … [its] image."
“But if you think that he would not govern the Curia, you are wrong. He knows very well what the problems are, and he has probably already thought of how to handle them,” Barlocci said March 15.
One of the first files Pope Francis will receive contains the findings from the investigation conducted by three cardinals into the Vatileaks scandal.
In fact, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became acquainted with how maneuvering at the Vatican could affect his ability to carry out his ministry.
An Argentinian prelate who spoke on the condition of anonymity said March 16 that Cardinal Bergoglio was “named as auxiliary and then archbishop of Buenos Aires to save the diocese from the disarray left by his predecessor, Guarracino.”
But, he added, “when new bishops were appointed in Argentina, he always found out that none of the indications he gave had been accepted.”
The process for selecting bishops typically involves the metropolitan archbishop offering his suggestions of who the pope should appoint as a bishop for vacant dioceses. However, in the case of Cardinal Bergoglio, his input was somehow being disregarded at the Congregation for Clergy.
The papal nuncio to Argentina responded by submitting the same top three suggestions for new bishops to the Vatican’s Congregation of the Clergy, so “the new bishops were in agreement with Bergoglio.”
This maneuvering was guided by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was then-secretary of state and had a strong influence in Latin America because of the years he served there as a papal nuncio. And his influence is still felt in the region because of the network of diplomats he has raised up.
Ready for Reform
However, Pope Francis seems to be very aware of these problems.
In fact, nothing of the Vatileaks file will likely surprise him. Pope Francis will take his time to understand how to “reform” the Curia.
“Cardinals told me,” the Holy Father joked at a March 16 meeting with journalists, “that I had to take the name of Hadrian VII, since there was the need of a Curia reform, and Hadrian VI was a great reformer.”
The first move of the new Pope will presumably be to appoint a new Vatican secretary of state.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone is 78 and therefore beyond the mandatory age of retirement for bishops. Two Italians appear to be the top candidates to take over his post: Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello — now in charge of the Vatican city state’s administration, and Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.