The Council of Cardinals Is Off and Running!

The Council of Cardinals Is Off and Running! October 4, 2013

The first three-day meeting of Pope Francis’ new, eight-member Council of Cardinals has drawn to a close; and it appears the group will recommend big changes in the way the Vatican is run.

Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesperson, told reporters on October 3 that the Council would not simply update Pope John Paul II’s 1988 Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, which governs how the Roman Curia operates; instead, they will work to draft an entirely new constitution, with significant new aspects.  “The cardinals have made it clear,” Father Lombardi reported, “that they do not intend to make cosmetic retouches or minor modifications toPastor Bonus’.”

Father Lombardi added a new document would address

“…the nature of the service on the part of the Curia and the universal and local Church in terms of subsidiarity, rather than the exercise of central power. The intended direction would be to put this into practice in the service of the Church in all her dimensions.”

Edward Pentin, reporting in the National Catholic Register, provided more details regarding the topics for consideration:

  • Another important theme raised was the nature and functions of the Secretariat of State. This should be viewed as “the secretariat of the Pope,” Father Lombardi said, and “the word ‘state’ should not give rise to doubt.” He also explained that the meeting of the council had been very useful for the Pope in order to offer direction to the new secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who will take up his position on Oct. 15.
  • Also discussed were possible changes to the organization of the Synod of Bishops that the Pope convenes to discuss the specific theme of Church life. Father Lombardi said this was moved to the top of the cardinals’ agenda because the synod council is due to meet at the Vatican Oct. 7-8. He also said the theme of the next synod is expected to be announced “in the coming days.”
  • The role of the laity and their contribution to the Church also figured highly in the discussions. Pope Francis and the cardinals discussed “how to ensure that this dimension of the Church’s reality is more adequately and effectively recognized and followed in the governance of the Church,” Father Lombardi said. “There is a Pontifical Council for the Laity, but it is still possible to think of ways of strengthening this aspect.”
  • Vatican finances were also examined, but not in great detail, as the Holy Father has appointed several commissions to deal with financial issues, and their work continues.
  • “The Holy Father also said that prominent themes such as family and matrimonial pastoral (duties) will be the order of the day in the activity of the Church in the near future,” Father Lombardi added. This may include examining the status of divorced and remarried Catholics in the Church — a subject often raised by Francis and Benedict XVI in the recent past.

There is so much work to be done; and the Council of Cardinals plans to convene frequently to address these issues.  The Holy See Press Office announced this morning that they will meet again on December 3-5, with a third session to take place in February 2014.  This will enable the work of the Council, especially in this initial phase, to proceed at a rapid pace.

Watch this space for updates!


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