Pope Francis Names Advisory Panel at Vatican
By Gaia Pianigiani and Rachel Donadio
New York Times
April 13, 2013
|Pope Francis with worshipers last week in St. Peter’s Square. His naming of advisers was seen as a move toward more collegial governance. |
In his first significant decision since becoming pontiff — and a radical step toward more democracy in the Roman Catholic Church — Pope Francis on Saturday named a group of eight cardinals from around the world to advise him in governing the church and overhauling the troubled Vatican hierarchy, which has been rocked by scandals.
Although the group will not have legislative power, Vatican experts said the move was a strong sign that Francis was eager to consult widely and promote greater dialogue between the Vatican hierarchy and churches worldwide. The eight cardinals named include the archbishop of Boston and prelates from Australia, Chile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, Honduras, India and Italy.
“It’s an epochal shift because it brings the Vatican closer to a more collegial governance,” said Paolo Rodari, a Vatican expert with the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica. He was using a term meaning a greater sharing of power between Rome and local churches in governing the Catholic Church.
That concept was central to the liberalizing changes of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, but critics said both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI consolidated more control with the Vatican. Francis’ new advisory group reverses the trend.
“For years, cardinals and others said that the Second Vatican Council sought a more horizontal government, that the pope should listen to bishops to resolve scandals,” Mr. Rodari said. “The first big decision of this pope really is that, to convoke a governing board. It’s a revolution.”
Under Benedict, the Vatican faced a crisis over child sexual abuse by priests and the “VatiLeaks” scandal, in which documents from the pope’s own apartment were leaked to the news media; critics blamed poor governance at the top of the Catholic Church.
Benedict, who is in retirement in the papal summer residence outside Rome and is set to move to a convent in the Vatican this summer, gave Francis a dossier on the troubles in the Vatican produced by an investigative committee of cardinals.
In a statement on Saturday, the Vatican said that Francis had acted on a suggestion raised during the general congregations of cardinals before the conclave in which he was elected pope. It said he had chosen the eight cardinals “to advise him in governing the universal church” and to study a project to revise the laws governing the Roman Curia, or Vatican hierarchy.
Since taking office in March, Francis, the first Jesuit and the first Latin American to become pope, has already set a drastically different tone from his predecessor. While Benedict was a shy theologian who preferred to dine alone, Francis has continued to live in the residence where the cardinals who elected him stayed during the conclave, using the Apostolic Palace as an office.
The Vatican said the pope was already in contact with the eight advisers, whose first official meeting will be in October. The coordinator of the eight is Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and the head of Caritas International, the Catholic Church’s main charity.
The others are Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican City; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, the archbishop emeritus of Santiago, Chile, and president of the Conference of Latin American Bishops; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India; Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston; and Cardinal George Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, Australia.
Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, will be the group’s secretary.