– Pope Francis’s Council of Cardinals met for the 17th time this week, with synodality and the Church’s “missionary drive” forming the basis of the discussion on how the reform of the Curia’s various departments will move forward.
Discussion largely centered around the role of the Secretary of state and the Congregations for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fides), for Bishops and for Oriental Churches.
According to a December 14 communique from the Vatican, the “fundamental” themes of “missionary push” and “synodality” emerged as guidelines during the December 12-14 discussion. In the past, the council has also emphasized the need for greater harmonization and simplification in the Curia.
In this round of meetings, the cardinals handed the pope their completed studies on several Vatican dicasteries, including the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, for the Saints Causes and for Christian Unity, which Francis must himself study and approve.
All nine members of the council were present for the meeting as well as Pope Francis, who participated in the majority of the sessions, but was out Wednesday morning for the general audience, as usual.
According to the communique, “considerable time” was dedicated to the projects of the two new mega-dicasteries for Laity, Family and Life, and for Integral Human Development.
Neo-cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the department for Laity, presented first, placing a strong emphasis on the role of laity.
He encouraged the other members to reread Pope Francis’s March 19 letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, in which the pontiff blasted clericalism as “one of the greatest distortions” facing the local church, particularly in South America.
Though not a member of the council, Card Turkson, head of the new department for Integral Human Development, was also present to talk about the progress and initiatives of the new dicastery, which merges four other offices and is set to go into effect January 1.
Archbishop Silvestro Tomasi, the secretary-delegate of the Vatican’s council for Justice and Peace, which will be merged into the dicastery for Human Development, was also present and spoke about the new dicastery as “a realization” of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution “Gaudium es Spes.”
The Vatican also announced today that Father Michael Czerny, a consultant with the Council for Justice and Peace, and Father Fabio Baggio, headmaster of the International Scalabrini Migration Institute of the Faculty of Theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, will be the new undersecretaries for the dicastery.
Both Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, President of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, and Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, also spoke on recent developments in in their respective areas.
Monsignor Dario Edoardo Vigano is set to speak Wednesday afternoon about the accomplishments and the steps that still need to be taken in communications reform, with particular emphasis on personnel training.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told journalists in a December 14 briefing on the meeting that Pell proposed a balance sheet, which should come out “soon,” as well as a budget for 2017.
He stressed that there was no talk whatsoever about the “dubia” sent to the pope by four cardinals over footnote 351 in Amoris Laetitia referring to communion and remarried Catholics, which were later published.
The letter “is not the purpose” of the Council of Cardinals, Burke said, adding that the pope was “very clear” in saying that the Synod of Bishops had already spoken on the matter.
The appointment of bishops was also touched on during the meeting, he said, noting that the discussion on this point “isn’t completely closed, it’s still open.”
After a two month break, the council’s next meeting will take place on February 13-15, 2017, in the Vatican.
Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the Council of Cardinals, also called “the Council of Nine,” serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor Bonus, the 1988 apostolic constitution of St. John Paul II that regulates the competencies and work of the Roman Curia.