ROME — In the wake of several contentious events surrounding the Vatican recently, Pope Francis’ advisory board in his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia affirmed their support of the Pope and his work.
On behalf of the group, Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga greeted Pope Francis at the start of the councils of cardinals on February 13 meeting.
He thanked the pope for his Christmas address to the Roman Curia on December 22, and acknowledging “his encouragement and direction for the work of the council,” a Vatican communique stated.
“In relation to recent events, the Council of Cardinals expresses its full support of the work of the Pope, while ensuring full adhesion and support to his person and his Magisterium,” it added.
The statement comes just over one week after posters criticizing the pope were plastered on walls of the city center of Rome on February 4.
Depicting a dour looking Pope Francis, they read: “Ah Francis, you’ve taken over congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored Cardinals…but where’s your mercy?”
After hearing about the posters, the Pope himself was reportedly unfazed. According to Italian news agency ANSA, Pope Francis received the news of the posters with “serenity and detachment.”
The brief phrase included on the posters was written in the Roman dialect, and indicates the culprit is someone who comes from more conservative sectors of the Church, many of whom have been in sharp disagreement with the pope regarding his decisions and ongoing reform of the curia, which he is doing with the help of the Council of Cardinals.
Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the council, 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.
The anti-Francis posters clearly referenced several contentious issues from his pontificate, such as the letter written to him by four cardinals in September asking for clarification on five points – called “dubia” – in Amoris Laetitia. The letter was subsequently published in November, after the pope did not respond.
Another was the pope’s request at the end of January for the Order of Malta’s former Grand Master, Matthew Festing, to resign while ousted Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager be reinstated.
The cardinals’ council is currently holding their 18th session at the Vatican on February 13-15 for what is their usual three days of meetings with Pope Francis. A session is generally held every few months.
Their last session was held on December 12-14, and focused on synodality and the Church’s “missionary drive” forming the basis of the discussion on how 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.
In the past, the council has also emphasized the need for greater harmonization and simplification in the curia.