Downsizing – Pope Francis announces his first Curia merger

Since virtually the start of his pontificate, Pope Francis has been expected to start reforming the Curia by eliminating and merging dicasteries. Until now he has created a few new ones (the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and the Secretariat for Communications, to name two), which has increased rather than decreased the size of the Curia. This week, however, comes the first announcement of a merger.

The Pontifical Councils for the Laity and the Family, as well as the Academy for Life, are to form a single dicastery for Laity and Family. What form and status this will take (a new Pontifical Council or, as I suspect, a Congregation) remains to be seen, as does the personnel assigned to them. The Academy for Life would seem to be remain as it exists now, but under the auspices of the new dicastery.

clemensThe Pontifical Council for the Laity is currently led by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, with Bishop Josef Clemens (pictured) as secretary. At 70 and 68 respectively, neither of these are about to retire, so if they do not remain in the dicastery, new appointments will have to be sought for them. Bishop Clemens is especially interesting, as the choice may be made to send him home to a diocese in Germany. At 68, he would be a transitional bishop, which would not go down well in the eastern German dioceses (of which Dresden-Meißen is vacant), where bishops have criticised the apparent use of the eastern dioceses as a “railway shunting yard for bishops”. Originally from the Archdiocese of Paderborn, Bishop Clemens has been working in Rome for the past three decades, so if he is the suitable candidate for a new assignment in his native country, where Limburg also remains vacant and Aachen will soon be, remains to be seen.

pagliaThe Pontifical Council for the Family is led by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia (pictured) as president and Bishop Jean Laffitte as secretary. Archbishop Paglia, although recently investigated and acquitted of financial mismanagement when he was bishop of Terni-Narni-Amelia, is also the organiser of the recent World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which, to all appearances, was a great success. At 70, he is also still 5 years away from retirement. Bishop Laffitte, 63, was recently appointed prelate of the Order of Malta in addition to his duties in the Pontifical Council. A Rome veteran like Bishop Clemens, it remains to be seen of a return to his native France, where Saint-Etienne is vacant and four ordinaries are close to retirement, is in any way likely.

If the new dicastery is a congregation, it will need a prefect and one or more secretaries, if a pontifical council there will be a president and one or more secretaries. Pope Francis may choose to appoint someone with experience to start up the new dicastery, which means Cardinal Rylko and Archbishop Paglia are good options. As both are five years away from retirement, they would be suitable to lead a transition and start-up phase. In the end, we’ll have to wait until December to find out what the Holy Father chooses to do.

The streamlining of the Curia may, as the rumours have it, continue with a merger of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace and Pastoral of Migrants and Itinerant People sometime in the future.

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A new episode of changes in the curia (part 1?)

And we’re up for another round of curial changes, as prelates retire from their offices and are replaced by new names. While many Vaticanistas are eagerly awaiting the appointment of a new prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (currently headed by 76-year-old Cardinal Levada) and even a new Secretary of State (Cardinal Bertone, the incumbent, is now 77), today we see a number of appointments which may not be as high-profile, but no less important.

Arguably the third-most important Congregation, that of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, sees a switch in secretaries. American Archbishop Joseph Di Noia is leaving to become vice-president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, directly assisting Cardinal Levada. Succeeding him at Divine Worship is English Bishop Arthur Roche (pictured at left), formerly of Leeds, who will be made an archbishop.

In the Congregation for Catholic Education, we note the departure of Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès. He had been that Congregation’s secretary since 2007, and will now take up duties as the archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives and librarian of the Vatican Apostolic Library. His predecessor, Cardinal Farina, had resigned for age reasons earlier this month.

In the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Archbishop Piergiuseppe Vacchelli resigns as adjunct secretary. Succeeding him as the congregation’s third man, is Archbishop Protase Rugambwa (pictured, right), until today the ordinary of the Tanzanian Diocese of Kigoma.

Then, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli resigns as President of the Pontifical Council of the Family. He held the office since 2008. His successor is Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, until today bishop of the Italian Diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia. With the office comes the personal title of archbishop.

In the Apostolic Penitentiary, one of the three tribunals of the Church, there is a new regent to succeed Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, who held the office since 2002. The new regent is Msgr. Krzysztof Nykiel, a Polish curial official.

In many ways, the Curia of the Catholic Church can be seen as a government, with ministries and secretaries. They are not only responsible for the daily affairs of the Church as institution, but also for essentially everything that has to do with the life of the Church and all her faithful. They give hand and feet to the Church’s eternal task of communicating and guarding the faith that has been given us. It is good for us Catholics to have a passing familiarity with the Curia.

The question now is… what will the coming weeks bring?