The week of reform

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The turbulent week of reforms begins on Monday: Eight counsellor cardinals are to meet with the Pope from Monday February 17 to Wednesday February 19, coordinated by Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga. The order of the day includes the first concrete proposals for the future organisation of the Vatican Congregations and the Secretary of State, topics already discussed at previous meetings, but also the beginning of a long and arduous examination of the Pontifical Councils.

General feeling is that there are too many Pontifical Councils, institutions of the Holy See that have no jurisdiction over the Congregations, and many already expect to be downsized or integrated. A number of councils may be absorbed by the new Congregation for laics, while is has also been proposed to merge the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation with the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. Either of these is possible and, although for now only hypothetical moves, would have numerous consequences for the redistribution of responsibility. In the case of the New Evangelisation, for example, its responsibilities would be reassigned to the Catechesi (once entrusted to the Congregation for the Clergy). In other words, there’s a lot of work to be done, as there are many reforms to be assessed and proposed to the Pope.

Another topic that will be addressed at the next meeting of the “G-8” of cardinals, selected by Pope Francis as his councillors, is that of the finances. Proposals include the unification of the economic-financial institutions of the Holy See under a single department, a sort of “Ministry of Finance”.

During the three days of work of the “G-8”, we may see the two commissions nominated in 2013 to investigate the IOR and to rationalise the economic-administrative structure come to report before the Council of Cardinals on their work. In particular, it is possible that the latter commission will be heard, presided over by Joseph F.X. Zahra from Malta and guided by Mr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, who has studied the organisational and economic problems of the Holy See. The aim is to propose a reform that simplifies and rationalises the expenses and economic activities of all Vatican administrations.

As we know, and as the Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin recently highlighted in his interview with Avvenire, which a number of external advisors have taken advantage of, they have a clearly defined mandate and a deadline. Their work must be completed soon.

But it is not just the Curia, its structures and its reforms in the spotlight next week. As soon as the work of the G-8 of cardinals is concluded, on Thursday, February 20 and Friday, February 21, all the cardinals in Rome are to meet with the Pope (also in attendance will be the new cardinals, who will receive their caps on Saturday February 22). Bergoglio has requested that the theme be centred around marriage, the family and pastoral care. It represents a chance to tackle the arguments that will be debated in the Synods of October 2014 and 2015, and on which an in-depth consultation has been promoted with the notorious questionnaire distributed by the Secretary of the Synod in recent months.

It is possible that the cardinals will begin to deal with the problems of sacraments for remarried divorcees and matrimonial annulments, subjects that have been debated more in the media than amongst the council until now.

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Andrea Tornielli