Cardinal Advisers Continue to Discuss Curial Reform

Pope Francis and the ‘council of cardinals’ held their 20th round of meetings in Rome this week.

A view of the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica from the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.
A view of the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica from the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. (photo: Lauren Cater/CNA)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis and the “council of cardinals” held their 20th round of meetings in Rome this week, continuing their work on reform of the Roman Curia, including their discussion of ways the Curia can better serve local Churches.

According to a June 14 statement, the meetings largely continued the work of previous gatherings, including progress on the possibility of transferring some faculties from Vatican dicasteries to local bishops or episcopal conferences “in a spirit of healthy decentralization.”

Proposals also considered ways in which the Curia could deepen service to the local Churches, as well as widen the scope of those consulted in the proposal of candidates for bishop appointments, to include more laypeople and members of consecrated life.

Taking place at the Vatican June 12-14, all nine members were present for the five sessions of meetings, with the exception of Cardinal Sean O’Malley. Pope Francis was present except for Wednesday morning, during the general audience, as is usual.

As in their meetings in April, the cardinals continued their inspection of texts proposed for submission to Pope Francis on the Dicasteries for Interreligious Dialogue, Eastern Churches, Legislative Texts and the three courts of the Roman Curia: the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Apostolic Signatura and the Roman Rota.

The Apostolic Penitentiary is the tribunal in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See, while the Signatura functions as a sort of Supreme Court. The Rota, for its part, is akin to a court of appeals or court of “last instance” and is also where marriage nullity cases are judged.

The cardinals also made further considerations on various departments, in particular the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Cardinal George Pell gave an update on the Secretariat for the Economy. “Particular attention has been paid to the steps taken in the process of planning the economic resources and the monitoring of the financial plans for the first quarter of 2017, which substantially confirmed, with few exceptions, the budget data,” the statement said.

Cardinal Pell reported that they will soon begin the process of planning the budget for 2018 and monitoring the second quarter of 2017.

The head of the Vatican Secretariat for Communications, Bishop Dario Edoardo Viganò, reported on the state of the reform of Holy See communications. In his presentation he highlighted the positive economic and managerial performance of the secretariat.

He also explained the projects under the new communications structure, formed by Pope Francis in June 2015, saying that they are in line with the Pope’s words during his audience at the dicastery’s first plenary May 3-5.

Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the cardinals’ council serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor Bonus, the apostolic constitution that governs the Roman Curia.

Keywords that have come out of the cardinals’ meetings so far and which have emerged as guiding principles for the ongoing Curial reform are harmonization, simplification, synodality, and the Church’s “missionary drive.”

The council of cardinals is set to meet again Sept. 11-13.