It is not Business-As-Usual in Rome these days.
Today the news from Vatican City is that Pope Francis has instituted a Council of Cardinals—making permanent the Consistory, the informal “Super-Eight” who were appointed last April to serve as consultors for the Holy Father, and who were invited to Rome for a meeting October 1-3 to assist in various matters, including the selection of a date for the canonization.
The Council of Cardinals, which includes Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, will draw up a plan for the revision of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus. That document, which was promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1988, instituted reforms in the Roman Curia, the central government of the Roman Catholic Church. According to Article 1 of Pastor Bonus,
“The Roman Curia is the complex of dicasteries and institutes which help the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the good and service of the whole Church and of the particular Churches. It thus strengthens the unity of the faith and the communion of the people of God and promotes the mission proper to the Church in the world”.
Some of the tasks delineated by Pastor Bonus, which will now be subject to review and possible revision, were:
- The Council for Public Affairs of the Church was reintegrated into the Secretariat of State as the Second Section, the Section for Relations with States.
- Membership in the various dicasteries, which had previously been open only to cardinals, was opened to priests, deacons, religious and lay persons.
- Roles were delineated for the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, Congregations, Tribunals, Pontifical Councils, Administrative Services, and Pontifical Commissions.
- Norms were established for diocesan bishops’ five-year ad limina visits to Rome.
- It formalized the relationship between the Secretariat of State and particular Churches and episcopal conferences.
Following is the full text of the chirograph, or papal decree, released on September 30 by the Vatican Information Service.
“Among the suggestions that emerged from the General Congregations of Cardinals prior to the Conclave, mention was made of the expediency of instituting a limited group of Members of the Episcopate, from various parts of the world, with whom the Holy Father could consult, individually or collectively, on specific matters. Once elected to the See of Rome, I have had the opportunity to reflect on this issue on a number of occasions, and consider that such an initiative would be of significant use in fulfilling the pastoral ministry of Peter’s Successor entrusted to me by my brother cardinals.
“For this reason, on 13 April I announced the constitution of the aforementioned group, at the same time indicating the names of those who had been called to participate. Now, following reflection, I consider it opportune that such a group, by means of the present Chirograph, be instituted as a ‘Council of Cardinals’, with the task of assisting me in the governance of the universal Church and drawing up a project for the revision of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus on the Roman Curia. It will be composed of the same persons previously nominated, who may be called upon, both in Council and singly, on matters that I will from time to time consider worthy of attention. The aforementioned Council which, with regard to the number of members, I will compose in the most appropriate way, will constitute a further expression of Episcopal communion and of the aid to the munus petrinum that the Episcopate, disseminated throughout the world, may offer”.
The chirograph is dated 28 September 2013, the first year of Francis’ Pontificate.