ROME — Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals met this week to continue discussion on reforming the Roman Curia, focusing on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council Promoting the New Evangelization.
According to an April 26 communique, during their 19th session the cardinals studied texts to propose to Pope Francis regarding the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and the three courts.
No big changes are expected out of this latest round of meetings – those changes were the new dicasteries formed last fall, Greg Burke, director of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists at a briefing Wednesday.
This time, Burke said, the cardinals and the pope focused on regulation within the departments, hoping to arrive at something like a “new Pastor bonus,” the 1988 apostolic constitution of St. John Paul II that regulates the competencies and work of the Roman Curia.
In the meetings, they inspected texts for the three courts of the Roman Curia: the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Apostolic Signatura, and the Roman Rota.
The Apostolic Penitentiary is the tribunal in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See, while the Signatura functions as a sort of Supreme Court. The Rota, for its part, is akin to a court of appeals or court of “last instance,” and is also where marriage nullity cases are judged.
They also spent a significant amount of time discussing the selection and training of staff of the Holy See, both laity and clerics.
In addition to the nine members of the council and Pope Francis, officials of the State Secretariat, the Council of the Economy, and the Office of Work of the Apostolic See (ULSA) also took part.
Cardinal George Pell gave an update on the Secretariat for the Economy, particularly on the monitoring of budgets and “the formation of personnel and human resources.”
The cardinals, in addition to speaking about the tribunals and bishop selection, continued to discuss points brought up during the last round of meetings, including the possible restructuring of the Congregations for the Evangelization of Peoples and Oriental Churches, and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley gave an update on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he heads, speaking about their plenary meeting in March and their visits to various ministries.
Carrying over from previous meetings, the council of cardinals also discussed decentralization, the relationship between bishops’ conferences and the Roman Curia, and how to be more in service to local bishops.
Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the council serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor bonus.
Keywords that have come out of the cardinals’ meetings so far and which have emerged as guiding principles for the ongoing Curial reform are harmonization, simplification, synodality, and the Church’s “missionary drive.”
The council of cardinals is set to meet again June 12-14 to continue discussion on moving forward in reforming curial structures.