Does Pope Francis’ Curial Reform Involve Sending Bishops to Dioceses?


Bishop Mario Toso was transferred Jan. 19 out of the Roman Curia to become bishop of Faenza-Modigliana.
Bishop Mario Toso was transferred Jan. 19 out of the Roman Curia to become bishop of Faenza-Modigliana. (photo: CNA/Marta Jimenez Ibanez)

VATICAN CITY — The appointment of Bishop Mario Toso as head of the small Italian Diocese of Faenza-Modigliana leaves vacant the post of secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, a Vatican office that will be involved in the larger process of Curia reform.

Bishop Toso, a Salesian, had served as secretary of the pontifical council since 2009. He had previously been an adviser of the same department. His appointment as bishop of Faenza-Modigliana was announced Jan. 19.

A specialist on the Church’s social teaching and one of those who reviewed the draft of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Bishop Toso distinguished himself in his service to the Holy See for his commitment to a reform of the international financial system and to the United Nations.

Bishop Toso also pushed the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to work on such topics as democracy and politicians, as it is shown by the several speeches and interviews he gave in this five years of service at the Holy See.

According to a source who works in a Vatican office connected with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Bishop Toso was offered the chance to become the coordinator of the to-be-established department for general reform of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The draft of the reform was discussed Nov. 24 in one of the regular meetings between Pope Francis and the chiefs of the Vatican offices.

The draft designed the establishment of two super congregations, in order to streamline the Curia’s structure.

The Congregation of Justice and Peace will include five secretariats: for Life and Human Ecology; for Justice and Peace in the World; for Migrants; for Health Care; and for Charity. This implies the downgrading to mere secretariat within a congregation of (respectively) the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Pontifical Council for Migrants, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Health Care and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

The Congregation for Laity and Family will also include five secretariats: for laity, for family, for young people, for women and for ecclesiastical movements. The congregation will thus enroll the two Pontifical Councils for Laity and Family, plus three additional office with specific competences.

The draft is under discussion, and — according to a source who works in the Pontifical Council for the Family — the Academy for Life is now to be included in the Congregation for Laity and Family and not in the Congregation of Justice and Peace.

These details will be discussed in the upcoming council of cardinals, scheduled Feb. 9-11, and in the following ordinary consistory, scheduled Feb. 12-13.

The news should be that each secretariat will not be necessarily led by a bishop, but also by religious sisters and even by laypeople or families, while the prefect of the congregation will necessarily be a cardinal.

The transfer of Bishop Toso begs the question: What will be the role and the weight of the current secretaries of the pontifical councils after the Curia reform is finalized?

Most of the bishops are due to take over a post as residential bishop, and that of Bishop Toso seems to be the first of many appointments of this kind.

On the other hand, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga had thought to strengthen the super congregation for Justice and Peace, trying not to lose the only specific expert in Catholic social teaching in the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The council of cardinals had then designed for Bishop Toso a post of coordinator of the Congregation for Justice and Peace, with a sort of oversight power on the texts and the policies of the congregation.

Faithful to Pope Francis’ spirit, Bishop Toso had instead preferred a post as a residential bishop.

The Faenza-Modigliana Diocese, in northern Italy, has a population of 113,000 Catholics and 88 parishes.

From that diocese, Bishop Toso will carry forward his commitment in the field of the Church’s social doctrine, continuing to author books and papers and contributing to the Italian magazine La Società, specializing in politics and Catholic social teaching, of which Bishop Toso has been deputy editor since its foundation in 1991.