VATICAN CITY — Reform was the watchword as cardinals met at the Vatican for briefings about the state of Vatican finances and about the work of a pontifical commission that protects minors.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna spoke with CNA about the extraordinary consistory of cardinals, reporting that “we are in the middle of a discussion, there are things to be refined, but there is a strong papal will to carry forward the reforms, and I can sense this among cardinals as well.”
Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, discussed the extraordinary consistory in a media briefing.
According to Father Lombardi, the Feb.12-13 extraordinary consistory took place “in a serene and constructive atmosphere.” The press office director said that 164 cardinals took part, including 19 of the 20 cardinals-to-be who will receive their red hats on Saturday.
He stressed that no decisions may be expected from it.
The extraordinary consistory was supposed to end the morning of Feb. 13, but a new session was added to allow Cardinal Sean O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission of Protection of Minors, to report about how the commission is shaping its statutes and outlining its future work.
The extraordinary session preceded the ordinary consistory, which will take place Feb. 14-15.
Only one cardinal will not attend the consistory: Archbishop Emeritus José de Jesús Pimiento Rodríguez emeritus of Manizales, Colombia. He has not come to Rome because of his advanced age.
The cardinals’ Friday morning session was dedicated to Vatican economic reform.
The cardinals first heard reports by Joseph F.X. Zahra, vice-coordinator of the Council for the Economy, who reported on the work done since the establishment of the Pontifical Commission of Reference for the Economic and Administrative Structure. He also reviewed the purposes of the council.
Next, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, coordinator of the Council for the Economy, outlined the goals of the council and its role and composition. He described the process to provide the council with statutes.
Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, gave further information about the secretariat’s recent activities.
Finally, Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, president of the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR) spoke about the current situation of the institute, which is commonly known as the Vatican Bank.
In Father Lombardi’s words, the extraordinary consistory was “the first time so many cardinals together have been briefed on such progress.”
Many cardinals asked questions of the speakers. According to the Holy See Press Office director, “cardinals expressed their appreciation for the reorganization work that has taken place and their conviction that this constitutes a convincing reform that prioritizes transparency, integrity and competence.”
Cardinals also inquired about the competencies of various bodies and the relations between the Holy See and Vatican City State.
According to a Vatican source, these clarifications are needed because “the statutes of the new bodies are being drafted.” The source added that one plan is to join the balance sheets of the Vatican City State and the Holy See, both of which are separate at present.
Everything is still in discussion, and Father Lombardi has said that no decision will be made.
According to Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, “once the economic reform has its grounds, it will work by itself.”
He said the Council of Cardinals has sought to find “a comprehensive way to foster the Curia reform.”
The cardinals identified a possible merging of pontifical councils.
Archbishop Semeraro added that “this merging is not only due to pragmatic reasons, but it also has theological grounds.”
According to Father Lombardi, cardinals widely discussed the project of Curia reform. During the Feb. 12 afternoon session, 28 cardinals took the floor, including the Cardinal-designate Dominique Mamberti, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.
Most of the intervention focused on the relationship between the Curia and the local Churches, with cardinals discussing “decentralization,” and some also introduced the theme of “subsidiarity.”
Father Lombardi recounted that cardinals also spoke about the usefulness and importance of the central service of the Holy See. They bore in mind experiences in various countries where the local Church is weak and may be subject to pressure, and is therefore supported by the work of the Vatican.
Cardinals zeroed in on the selection of Vatican personnel, on the competencies of the Secretariat of State, and on the manner of achieving better coordination among the Curia body. Almost all of the intervention emphasized the need for a simplification.
Continuity with Pastor Bonus
Father Lombardi also said that “other interventions focused on the positive elements of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, which must not be lost from view; therefore, the reform process must ensure distinct continuity with this document, especially from an ecclesiological point of view.”