Pope Francis: Curial Reform Must Lead to More Effective Evangelization

Swiss Guard on duty at the Bronze Door of the Apostolic Palace.
Swiss Guard on duty at the Bronze Door of the Apostolic Palace. (photo: Edward Pentin)

To harmonize the work among Vatican offices, increase effective collaboration, and promote collegiality – these are some of the end goals of reform of the Roman Curia, Pope Francis said today.

Opening a two-day consistory of the College of Cardinals at the Vatican’s Synod Hall today largely dedicated to studying the reform proposals so far, the Pope said reforming the curia is “not an end in itself, but a means to give a strong Christian witness.”

He said it must “promote a more effective evangelization,” as well as a “more fruitful ecumenical spirit”, and encourage a “more constructive dialogue with all”.

The Pope reminded those present, who included the 20 prelates to be made cardinals on Saturday, that the reform was “strongly advocated” by most cardinals at the last conclave. It will “further perfect” the identity of the curia, he said, helping to “strengthen the unity of faith and communion of the people of God and promote the mission of the Church in the world.”

Achieving this goal is certainly “not easy,” the Pope said, and it’s necessary to first “entrust ourselves to the Holy Spirit, the true guide of the Church, imploring the gift of authentic discernment in prayer.”

He said the meetings this week will be fruitful thanks to frank exchanges of opinion (“parrhesía”), “fidelity to the Magisterium” and the knowledge that “all of this contributes to the supreme law, that being the salus animarum [salvation of souls].”

The Council of Nine Cardinals on reforming the curia met from Monday to Wednesday this week and their summary will be the subject of study during the consistory.  The group will meet again on 13-15 April, and is also expected to meet in July of 2015.

Briefing reporters this afternoon, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the cardinals learned of arguably the most concrete reform proposal to have emerged so far: to create a new Congregation for Laity, Family and Life, and a second new Congregation for Justice and Peace, Migrants and Charity. 

Here below is the full text of the Pope’s remarks. Translation courtesy of Vatican Radio:

Dear brothers,

"How good, how delightful it is to live as brothers all together!" (Ps 133,1).

In the words of the Psalm we give praise to the Lord who has called us together and gives us the grace to welcome the 20 new cardinals in this session. To them and to all, I give my cordial greetings. Welcome to this communion, which is expressed in collegiality.

Thanks to all those who have prepared this event, especially to His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals. I thank the Commission of nine Cardinals and the coordinator, His Eminence Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga. I also thank His Excellency Marcello Semeraro, Secretary of the Commission of Nine Cardinals: Today he will present a summary of the work done in recent months to develop the new Apostolic Constitution for the reform of the Curia. As we know, this summary has been prepared on the basis of many suggestions, even those made by the heads of the Dicasteries, as well as experts in the field.

The goal to be reached is always that of promoting greater harmony in the work of the various Dicasteries and Offices, in order to achieve a more effective collaboration in that absolute transparency which builds authentic sinodality and collegiality. The reform is not an end in itself, but a means to give a strong Christian witness; to promote a more effective evangelization; to promote a more fruitful ecumenical spirit; to encourage a more constructive dialogue with all.

The reform, strongly advocated by the majority of the Cardinals in the context of the general congregations before the conclave, will further perfect the identity of the same Roman Curia, which is to assist the Successor of Peter in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the good of and in the service of the universal Church and the particular Churches. This exercise serves to strengthen the unity of faith and communion of the people of God and promote the mission of the Church in the world.

Certainly, it is not easy to achieve such a goal: it requires time, determination and above all  everyone’s cooperation. 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. It is in this spirit of collaboration that our meeting begins, which will be fruitful thanks to the contribution which each of us can express with parrhesía, fidelity to the Magisterium and the knowledge that all of this contributes to the supreme law, that being the salus animarum. Thank You.

VIS had this report on today's briefing:

"A total of 165 cardinals participated in this morning's first session of the Extraordinary Consistory with the Holy Father. Twenty-five were unable to attend due to illness or other serious problems, according to a report from the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., following the morning meeting.

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga explained that the meeting of the Council of Cardinals (the so-called “C9”) which came to an end yesterday afternoon, focused primarily but not exclusively on the reform of the Curia; other themes addressed were the regulation of the Synod, the work of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, and relations with the economic entities of the Holy See (COSEA and IOR).

Bishop Marcello Semeraro, secretary of the C9, presented the main lines of reform of the Roman Curia, in the light of the meeting of heads of the dicasteries that took place in November 2014. The issues to be considered are the functions of the Roman Curia, its relationship with other entities such as the episcopal conferences, the criteria for rationalisation and simplification that must guide it in its tasks, the Secretariat of State, the coordination of the dicasteries of the Curia, the relationship between religious and laypersons and the procedures that must govern the preparation of the new constitution.

Reference was also made to the institution of two congregations. The first would encompass those organisms that until now have been concerned with the laity, the family and life. The second would deal with matters linked to charity, justice and peace. The collaboration of the Pontifical Councils and Academies dedicated to these themes could be strengthened.

Twelve prelates intervened during the morning session, observed Fr. Lombardi: mainly cardinals who have a profound knowledge of the workings of the Curia, although there have been contributions from a diverse range of contexts. It has been observed that reform is twofold, theological and juridical, and many of its assumptions relate to canon law and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, as well as relationships with the episcopates. It was also noted that the Pope is assisted not only by the Curia, but also by the College of Cardinals and the Synod of Bishops. In this regard, the themes of synodality and collegiality were discussed, and preference was expressed for the latter denomination rather than the former.

The issue of the ongoing training of staff of the Roman Curia was not overlooked, and consideration was given to the possibility of a rotation of duties to counteract routine. In this sector, both favourable and contrary opinions were expressed by the cardinals, who emphasised that some fields require a high level of specialisation and that for this reason, change would be inadvisable."