ROME — February is shaping up to be a busy month at the Vatican, with movement on the fight against clerical sex abuse, further steps on the reform of Church governance, and the creation of new cardinals.
A Vatican spokesman announced Thursday at a press briefing in Rome that the “Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors,” a body created by Pope Francis in December 2013 and presided over by Boston’s Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, will meet in the Vatican on Feb. 6-8.
The commission is currently getting set to add nine new members who, according to the Rev. Federico Lombardi, will be present at the meeting.
Although the spokesman didn’t give any names or nationalities for the new members, in a Nov. 19 interview with Crux, the Rev. Robert Oliver, the commission’s chief of staff, said they include two experts from Oceania, one from Asia, two from Latin America, one from the United States, and a married couple from Africa.
Reform of the Roman Curia
Immediately after that meeting wraps up, the pope’s “G9” — his council of cardinal advisors that also includes O’Malley — will assemble Feb. 9-11 to continue planning the reform of the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s central administrative bureaucracy.
Lombardi said that even though “no decision has yet been made over the reform, neither by the G9 nor the pope,” the process is well underway.
It would be premature, Lombardi said, to expect any announcement about big changes in the Roman Curia next February. He said the merging of some pontifical councils into two new congregations is being discussed, and he didn’t rule out the possibility of a new constitution for the Curia.
There are currently nine such congregations, with jurisdiction over specific areas of church life, and they are almost always led by a cardinal, such as the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the Causes of Saints, and for Catholic Education.
The Curia currently includes 12 pontifical councils, mid-size agencies not necessarily led by cardinals, such as the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
In an interview published last Sunday in the Argentinian newspaper La Nación, Pope Francis said that the reform wouldn’t be ready in 2015.
Meeting of the College of Cardinals
Next up, on February 12 and 13, the pope will convene a formal meeting of the College of Cardinals in Rome.
According to Lombardi, the agenda for the meeting has not been set, but the pope will give the cardinals a progress report on Curia reform. It’s also possible that the second part of the synod of bishops on the family, scheduled for October 2015, will also be discussed.
Finally, on February 14 and 15, Pope Francis will hold a consistory, the event in which new cardinals are entered formally into the College of Cardinals.
Lombardi didn’t provide specifics, but he said that up to a dozen bishops could be made cardinals. Historically, the new appointments are announced a month before the consistory, which in this case would be mid-January, when the pope is scheduled to be in Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
Pope Francis held his first consistory on Feb. 22, when 19 new cardinals were created, including Cardinal Chibly Langlois, the first Haitian to receive this honor. Sixteen of the new cardinals were under the age of 80, and thus eligible to vote for the next pope.