VATICAN CITY — Reform to promote greater harmony in the work of the Roman Curia, in Pope Francis’ words, was the topic of discussion on Thursday, the opening day of an extraordinary consistory of cardinals held at the Vatican.
Opening the consistory Feb. 12, Pope Francis stressed that the aim of reform “is always that of promoting greater harmony in the work of the various dicasteries and offices, in order to achieve more effective collaboration in that absolute transparency which builds authentic synodality and collegiality.”
“Reform is not an end in itself,” he said, “but a way of giving strong Christian witness; to promote more effective evangelization; to promote a fruitful ecumenical spirit; and to encourage a more constructive dialogue with all.”
The Pope then said reform was “strongly advocated by the majority of cardinals” in the pre-conclave meetings in March 2013 and is intended to “enhance the identity of the Roman Curia itself, which is to assist Peter’s successor in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the good and in the service of the universal Church and the particular Churches, in order to strengthen the unity of faith and the communion of the people of God and to promote the mission of the Church in the world.”
According to Pope Francis, “it is not easy to achieve such a goal,” and it will require “time, determination and, above all, the collaboration of all. But to achieve this we must first entrust ourselves to the Holy Spirit, the true guide of the Church, imploring the gift of authentic discernment in prayer.”
After Pope Francis, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, who coordinates the council of cardinals, read an introduction in which “he summarized the modus operandi of the council, the way they collected the some 100 contributions from Vatican dicasteries and the way they achieved the summary,” Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said in a media briefing.
Cardinal Rodriguez also explained that the council did not focus exclusively on Curial reform. In their eight meetings and more than 50 sessions, the council has also discussed the Synod of Bishops, the work of the Commission for the Protection of Minors and economic issues.
Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, secretary of the council of cardinals, then presented to the cardinals a summary of possible Curial reform.
According to Father Lombardi, the draft was divided in two parts: The first part explained the main lines of the reform, and the second part provided the theological roots of the new outline of the Roman Curia.
Father Lombardi explained that the main proposal is that of establishing two super congregations — for Charity, Justice and Peace; and for Laity, Family and Life.
These two congregations may be established ad experimentum, while the Roman Curia continues functioning, as the drafting of a comprehensive apostolic constitution to regulate its functions will be carried forward.
Father Lombardi said there “may be a commission to draft the new constitution, and its conclusion may be submitted to a restricted commission of cardinals that will make the final draft. After that, the Pope will make the decision.”
This process “would involve canon lawyers and theologians,” since “there is the need to give theological foundation to the reform,” and this is the reason why “the path to reform will be long.”
Bishop Semeraro’s report took in consideration the functions of the Roman Curia, its relationship with bishops’ conferences and criteria for rationalization and simplification.
The role of the Secretariat of State has also been discussed. Father Lombardi stated there had been the proposal of establishing a “moderator curiae” as one of the tasks with which the Secretariat of State is entrusted.
After Bishop Semeraro, 12 cardinals took the floor, “mainly cardinals who have a profound knowledge of the workings of the Curia, although there have been contributions from a diverse range of contexts,” Father Lombardi said.
Among the issues at stake, there were those of synodality and collegiality, as well as that of the ongoing training of the staff of the Roman Curia.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, there were 148 cardinals and 19 out of 20 cardinal-designates in attendance at the consistory.
Tomorrow, Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, will report at the consistory about the Vatican’s economic reforms.