Now a C6, Pope’s advisory council sees three members go

cq5dam.thumbnail.cropped.750.422The decision was not unexpected, but it may have important repercussions for the future work of the Council of Cardinals as well as for Pope Francis’ efforts to reform the Curia. In September, the nine-member Council had requested the pope to reflect on “the work, structure and composition of the Council itself, also taking into account the advanced age of some members”, as today’s press release has it. At the time, I speculated that the most likely Council members to be let go were Cardinals George Pell, Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa and Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya. It turns out that I was right.

card_monsengwuThe three cardinals are all of advanced age, with Cardinal Pell being the youngest at 77. In fact, only for Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya would age have been the sole reason to be let go from the Council. In February, the 79-year-old Congolese prelate had a coadjutor archbishop appointed to assist him in his Archdiocese of Kinshasa. In November this coadjutor, Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, took over as archbishop of Kinshasa and Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya retired. The letting go of Cardinals Pell and Errázuriz ,, although in part motivated by their age, is also coloured by their involvement in sexual abuse cases, with Cardinal Errázuriz playing a role in the abuse crisis in Chile and Cardinal Pell currently on trial in his native Australia.

The Council of Cardinals now consists of the following members:

  • Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa
  • Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State and the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State
  • Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay
  • Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of München und Freising and Coordinator of the Council for the Economy
  • Cardinal Séan O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors
  • Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State

The Council is assisted by Bishop Marcello Semeraro, bishop of Albano, as secretary, and Bishop-elect Marco Mellino as adjunct secretary (who is the sole Council member specifically appointed and made a bishop for that role (his consecration is scheduled for next Saturday, with Cardinal Parolin as main consecrator)).

While the above is significant but not unexpected, a further line in the press release states: “Given the phase of the Council’s work, the appointment of new members is not expected at present.” Should this be read as an indication that the work of the Council of Cardinals is nearing completion? The press release also notes that a new version of the Apostolic Constitution, provisionally titled Predicate evangelium, has been submitted to Pope Francis, which may be another hint that the work is closer to its end than its beginning. This document is expected to replace the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, issued in 1988 by Pope Saint John Paul II, which outlines the current structure and duties of the Roman Curia. Pope Francis has of course already changed some aspects of Pastor Bonus, by merging dicasteries and creating new ones. A new Apostolic Constitution will not only outline the names and duties of the dicasteries, but also how they must function by themselves and in relation to the rest of the Roman Curia.

Photo credit: [1] Vatican Media, [2] CNS

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For when the Pope is gone… Two new chamberlains

 

belarusYesterday Pope Francis made two appointments which are largely dormant at the moment, but which are nonetheless interesting and a reflection of the Pope’s confidence in the men concerned. The Chamberlain and the Vice-Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church have great responsibility when a Pope dies or retires, as they make sure the daily affairs of the Holy See, as well as the preparations for the conclave, the papal funeral (if there is one) and the protection of the personal and professional assets of the deceased or retired pontiff, occur as needed.

The Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, published in 1998 by Pope St. John Paul II, describes the duties of the chamberlain as follows:

“When the Apostolic See falls vacant, it is the right and the duty of the cardinal camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, personally or through his delegate, to request reports from all the administrations dependent on the Holy See on their patrimonial and economic status as well as information on any extraordinary business that may at that time be under way, and, from the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See he shall request a financial statement on income and expenditures of the previous year and the budgetary estimates for the following year. He is obliged to submit these reports and estimates to the College of Cardinals (Art. 171, § 2).”

Until yesterday these positions were held by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the retired secretary of state, and Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, retired secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Both performed their duties between the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis.

The choice of the chamberlains involves not only the suitability of the persons involved, but also the personal confidence the Pope has in time. After all, they take over from him once he dies or retires, and are therefore tasked with protecting their heritage as heads of state and spiritual leaders until a new Pope takes over.

giampietro%20gloder%20Pope Francis chose Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (who, as Protodeacon, also announced the name of the new Pope following the conclave) as chamberlain, and Archbishop Giampiero Gloder as Vice-Chamberlain.

Cardinal Tauran (above, at right) remains the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and is also a member of two commissions overseeing the Vatican Bank. Aged 71, he may be expected to continue as such until his 75th, while the office of chamberlain will possibly be his until his 80th birthday.

Archbishop Gloder (above, at left) was appointed as President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the diplomacy school of the Holy See, in September of 2013, when he was also made a bishop. Before that he worked in the Secretary of State as Head of office for special affairs.

Francis’ Group of Eight

francis o'malleyIt’s not really a surprise, as Pope Francis’ intention to restructure the Roman Curia had been discussed and speculated about since his election – in fact, it was a major topic  during the pre-conclave General Congregations. Never having been a curial cardinal himself, Pope Francis has decided to appoint a group of eight cardinals to help him in this process: the first concrete step towards a possible future restructuring. But what is noticeable is that only one of the members of this group comes from the Curia. It seems that a multinational group of non-curial prelates will have a major say about the future of the Curia.

Oscar Andrés Cardinal Maradiaga Rodríguez, archbishop of Tegucigalpa (Honduras), will act as coordinator of the group, and Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano (Italy) will be secretary. The remaining six members are:

  • Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, President of the Governatorate of Vatican City State
  • Francisco Javier Cardinal Errazuriz Ossa, Archbishop emeritus of Santiago de Chile (Chile)
  • Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay (India)
  • Reinhard Cardinal Marx, Archbishop of München und Freising (Germany)
  • Laurent Cardinal Monswengo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • Sean Patrick Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston (United States)
  • George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney (Australia)

This seems to be an answer to the desire of several cardinals, among them Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, that a group of cardinals be established to assist the Pope in the management of the Church.  The difference here though, is that the current group of eight will only assist the Pope in one very specific matter not unlike the group of three that Pope Benedict XVI tasked with investigating the VatiLeaks case last year.

Aside from the general task of advising the Pope in the government of the Church, the Group of 8 will study a lan for revising Pastor Bonus, the Apostolic Constitution by which Blessed Pope John Paul II launched a number of revisions to the Curia in 1998. The general expectation and hope seems to be that certain offices will be merged or even suppressed to achieve a more effective Curia without the excessive careerism that many have noted has been preventing a smooth running of the Curial duties.

The Group of 8 will first meet in October, although Pope Francis is in contact with all of them (and with the Holy Father we may assume that that is certainly true – after all, he is not averse to picking up the phone to whoever he needs to speak to).

Photo credit: CNS