C9 to meet again in September

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The nine cardinals assisting the Pope with the reform of the Roman Curia and the government of the universal Church, the “C9” as it is called, will meet again in September following a four-day meeting, the fifth since the start of the pontificate.

Other meetings will also be held in December and February but it is not certain that the February gathering will give birth to the new apostolic constitution that would replace the “Pastor Bonus”, the blueprint for the Vatican’s various congregations, pontifical councils and offices.

The Pope and his cardinal advisors discussed the role of women, lay people and married couples in the Roman Curia and of the Nunciatures, with a focus on the process for the nomination of bishops. In terms of the IOR, changes are expected in the Institute’s governance and these will be presented at a press conference with Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican Secretary of the Economy, next Wednesday.

The C9 will next meet from 15 to 17 September, from 9 to 11 December and from 9 to 11 February, the Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said during a press briefing. But Fr. Lombardi did not confirm whether the Council of Cardinals would conclude its work at the last of these meetings: “It is too premature to say whether it is the final meeting,” he said. “No drafts have been produced for a new apostolic constitution,” Fr. Lombardi said. “We are moving along at a steady pace but more time is needed” before the Council concludes its work.

The Vatican spokesman denied one journalist’s suggestion that the work of the C9 is slowing down. The downside of an assembly that “represents the Church and all its various components across various continents and throughout the world” is that meetings cannot “last that long” and the group’s work “cannot be completed quickly.” There is no sense of urgency in the process of Church reform but the Pope is, of course, free to decide to speed things up.

The nine-member Council of Cardinals started off this week’s meeting by examining the Vatican Governorate, the Secretariat of State and the IOR. It ended by focusing on “the role of lay people, married couples and women” in the Vatican dicasteries that deal with the laity and the family, Lombardi said. He also mentioned the possibility of the two Pontifical Councils being merged into one single dicastery, stressing that the discussion about “the issue of the laity and the family” focused on the future “of these bodies, or this body, depending on how the project unfolds.”

Following an initial screening of the Vatican dicasteries – Congregations and Pontifical Councils –the C9 is now looking at each individual dicastery to try to come up with a solution that may involve mergers and cutting back on Vatican bureaucracy. Another area of focus in the C9’s latest meetings (the last work session takes place this afternoon), were “the nunciatures and their work, and the procedures for the appointment of bishops,” Fr. Lombardi said. So far, Apostolic Nunciatures in individual countries have acted as the Holy See’s peripheral offices for the pre-selection of bishops from various parts of the world, who are then chosen by the Vatican Congregation for Bishops and appointed by the Pope.

During the press briefing, Fr. Lombardi confirmed that the Council for the Economy, led by the German cardinal Reinhard Marx, will meet in the Bologna Hall, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace. The meeting will take place while Pope Francis is on his visit to the southern Italian region of Molise.

A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday and will be attended by Australian cardinal George Pell, head of the new Secretariat for the Economy, the Vatican’s economy super-dicastery. Changes are also expected in the management of the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR). A statement recently expressed esteem for the president of the IOR, Ernst von Freyberg. Meanwhile, the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors will meet Sunday, with the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley. The attendance of six European paedophilia victims at the Pope’s mass in St. Martha’s House on Monday morning has been announced but not officially confirmed. Cardinals O’Malley, Pell and Marx are members of the C9 and so the aim is to make the most of their presence in Rome that is why the bodies they are members of have tried to squash in so many meetings over the past few days.

The overall tone of the Pope’s meetings with his nine advisors was “free, frank and friendly”, Fr. Lombardi said, quoting the words used by an Anglophobe cardinal: “There is freedom of expression, sincerity and cordiality,” the Vatican spokesman said, adding that “sometimes the English word “frank” is too strong, “sincere” would be a faithful translation.” The Pope participates naturally in the dialogue, promoting a climate of free expression and the development of dialogue, without trying to influence others” although “the Council obviously makes suggestions and then the Pope has the authority and the freedom to decide.”

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By Iacopo Scaramuzzi