As soon as he had been chosen to be Pope, Francis promised he would act, and now six months later he is changing the workings of the Curia: the government of the Roman Catholic Church.
The first step came on Monday, when Francis formally inaugurated the group of eight Cardinals he appointed to help him with this reform. The group, informally known as the G8, will officially be called the ‘Council of Cardinals.’ They are independent of the existing power structure in Rome. They answer only to the pope. It is said he will be doing a lot of listening to them. Then Francis’s word will be decisive.
Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said: 30/09/2013 “It’s going to be a long term job. Let’s not think that the reform of the Curia and of the government of the Universal Church is something that can be dealt with in terms of specific conclusions in three days.”
When Father Bergoglio was chosen in the papal conclave in March, it became clear the College of Cardinals saw the need for reform, and thought the straight-talking missionary-like Archbishop of Buenos Aires might have the right stuff to re-forge the Church. The Vatican was staggering under the Vatileaks scandal – the Italian media lifting lids off various pots of corruption in the Curia.
Vatican expert Iacopo Scaramuzzi, with Italian news agency Tim News, said: “Pope Bergoglio has a strong mandate. The majority of the cardinals who elected him in the Conclave wanted a strong pope, who would change many things and relaunch the Catholic Church by reforming the Vatican Curia.”
The Vatican bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), for decades a hotbed for scandal and murky operations, has just published the first annual report in its 125-year history. Its new president said this is a commitment to transparency that Catholics around the world “rightfully expect”.
Francis’s G8 will also study the sexual abuse problems of the Church. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), has rejected the previous pope’s denial of cover-up allegations, saying: “In the Church’s entire history, no one knew more but did less to protect kids than Benedict.”
Women’s roles in the Church will be addressed, and how to treat divorced and remarried Catholics, and the annulment of marriages. Decentralisation is another area of study, since now only one quarter of the world’s estimated 1.2 billion Catholics are European, and yet the Church is run from Europe. Under the new Argentinean pope, the eight Cardinals from five continents will try to make the institution more compatible with global realities.