VATICAN CITY (RNS) Exactly one month after his election to the papacy, Pope Francis on Saturday (April 13) set up a working group of eight cardinals from all over the world to advise him on the running of the Catholic Church and on how to reform the scandal-ridden Roman Curia, the church’s central administration.
The group will meet for the first time in early October in Rome but the Vatican stressed that the pontiff “is already in contact with the cardinals.”
In the run up to the conclave that elected Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis on March 13, several cardinals had voiced concern for the mismanagement and infighting in the Curia, which is mostly staffed by Italian churchmen.
According to a Vatican press statement, Francis decided to create the cardinals’ group in order to follow up on a “suggestion that emerged during the General Congregations,” the cardinals closed-door meetings that preceded the conclave.
Only one of the eight cardinals chosen by Francis comes from Italy, Giuseppe Bertello, who currently runs the administration of the Vatican City State.
The other seven head from different regions of the world. They are:
Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, archbishop emeritus of Santiago de Chile, Chile;
Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India;
Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany;
Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo;
Sean Patrick O’Malley O.F.M., archbishop of Boston, USA;
George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia;
Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Maradiaga will coordinate the group’s work while Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, will have the role of secretary.
In a brief meeting with journalists, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, stressed that the group’s creation will in no way “diminish the role” of the Curia or its responsibilities.
He said that while the Curia remains in charge for the day-to-day task of “helping the pope in the running of the church,” the cardinals will “advise” the pope when they are requested to do so.
According to Lombardi, the creation of the cardinals’ group is a “signal of the pope’s reflection and attention on the issues facing the organization of the church.”
The pontificate of Francis’ predecessor, Benedict, was marred by frequent failings in the Curia’s work, culminating in the so-called Vatileaks scandal that led to the arrest of the pope’s personal butler for stealing confidential documents and leaking them to the press.
Upon resigning, Benedict left Francis a secret report on the church’s administrative shortcomings revealed by the Vatileaks affair.
On Friday (April 12), Francis visited the Vatican Secretariat of State and praised its 300-strong staff for its “priceless commitment.”