From the Associated Press:
Pope Francis marked his first month as pope on Saturday by naming nine high-ranking prelates from around the globe to a permanent advisory group to help him run the Catholic Church and study a reform of the Vatican bureaucracy — a bombshell announcement that indicates he intends a major shift in how the papacy should function.
The panel includes only one current Vatican official; the rest are cardinals and a monsignor from Europe, Africa, North and South America, Asia and Australia — a clear indication that Francis wants to reflect the universal nature of the church in its governance and core decision-making, particularly given the church is growing and counts most of the world’s Catholics in the southern hemisphere.
In the run-up to the conclave that elected Francis pope one month ago, a reform of the Vatican bureaucracy was a constant drumbeat, as were calls to make the Vatican itself more responsive to the needs of bishops around the world. Including representatives from each continent in a permanent advisory panel to the pope would seem to go a long way toward answering those calls…
…The members of the panel include Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Vatican city state administration — a key position that runs the actual functioning of the Vatican, including its profit-making museums. The non-Vatican officials include Cardinals Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, the retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo; Sean Patrick O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston; George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia; and Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Monsignor Marcello Semeraro, bishop of Albano, will be secretary while Maradiaga will serve as the group coordinator.
UPDATE: Then there’s this, from John Thavis:
— By forming such a group, the pope has signaled that he wants to look at bigger issues of governance and organization at the Vatican, and not merely make cosmetic changes. Instead of shifting the pieces around the chessboard, Pope Francis may choose to redesign the board completely.
Already, rumors are percolating through Rome about how a revamped Secretariat of State might work. Others have suggested that major Vatican offices could be combined.
— The group is small enough to work. A larger group would have been unwieldy, but eight cardinals (and one secretary) can convene and reach consensus more easily. Their first official meeting is scheduled for Oct. 1-3, but the Vatican statement hinted that their work has already begun when it said the pope has already been in contact with the cardinals.
— The decision demonstrates collegiality in action. Pope Francis has shown that when it comes to such an important project, he recognizes he’s going to need help from fellow bishops.