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Pope Francis wants ‘absolute transparency’ as he pushes Vatican reform

Pope Francis leads a consistory to name 20 new cardinals at the Vatican on February 12, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-REFORM, originally transmitted on February 12, 2015 or RNS-POPE-REFORM, originally transmitted on March 9, 2015.
Pope Francis leads a consistory to name 20 new cardinals at the Vatican on February 12, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi   *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-REFORM, originally transmitted on February 12, 2015.

Pope Francis leads a consistory to name 20 new cardinals at the Vatican on Feb. 12, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-REFORM, originally transmitted on Feb. 12, 2015.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis called for a Vatican that operates with “absolute transparency” as he gathered more than 165 cardinals in Rome for high-level meetings aimed at tackling one of the toughest challenges of his reformist papacy: overhauling the dysfunctional bureaucracy of the Roman Curia.

The goal, Francis told a lecture hall filled with the “princes of the church,” is to encourage “greater harmony” among the different church offices in a bid to foster “absolute transparency that builds authentic … collegiality.”

“Reform is not an end in itself, but a means of bearing a powerful Christian witness,” Francis said.

That was a nod to the scandals that overshadowed the waning years of Benedict XVI’s papacy and undermined the Vatican’s credibility with the public and the dismayed churchmen who had to deal with the fallout.

The two-day gathering with the cardinals — including most of the 20 new appointees who will be officially elevated by the pope on Saturday — comes almost two years to the day after Benedict stunned the world by announcing that he would become the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign from office.

Benedict’s retirement was spurred in part by the various crises and infighting that erupted on his watch, and his inability to deal with them as he grew older and more infirm.

As Francis noted in his brief remarks on Thursday (Feb. 12), overhauling the Vatican bureaucracy — and making it more accountable to the world’s bishops, rather than the Curia giving orders — was a priority that emerged from closed-door discussions that preceded the conclave of March 2013 that elected Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as pope.

Francis quickly took steps to start the process, and raised great hopes. But the task is proving difficult even for Francis, as it has for popes before him.

There is still no detailed proposal for reorganizing the byzantine structure of the Roman Curia, which has nine influential and largely autonomous “congregations” and a dozen “councils” of lesser rank.

The cardinals will hear only the outlines of some of the major ideas that have emerged, such as combining many offices under two major departments, one dealing with issues of justice and charity, the other with issues such as the family and the laity.

The cardinals will also hear updates on efforts to streamline the Vatican’s multipronged media operations, and they will be briefed on the progress of a major new initiative, the papal commission to combat child abuse and deal with the clergy sex scandal.

The effort to clean up the Vatican bank and the tangled finances of the Holy See is another priority but also emblematic of the challenges Francis faces.

One of the cardinals charged by the pope with reforming the Vatican’s economic system said this week that he and the financial experts working with the cardinals are meeting some resistance from curial offices as the reformers try to install basic methods of oversight and accountability.

“It’s a culture shock to have to report to somebody other than themselves,” Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa told Catholic News Service.

Napier said that he believes Francis and his team still have the support of a majority of the cardinals when it comes to reform, but he told CNS that “those shouting the loudest” for reform before the 2013 conclave now seem less enthusiastic.

“It’s one thing to say it needs to be done, another to do it,” he said.

The pope himself seems to recognize that it’s an uphill battle. Last Christmas he delivered a sharp rebuke to curial officials who would impede reforms, and Thursday he again stressed that “reaching this goal (of reform) is not easy.”

“It will take time, determination and, above all, the collaboration of all.”

KRE/MG END GIBSON

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

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  • “It’s a culture shock to have to report to somebody other than themselves,” Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa told Catholic News Service.

    Not to worry, the NEXT time it happens (having “to report to somebody other than themselves”), they won’t feel so bad. If this is the worst thing to happen (that this crew suffers a “culture shock”), then the rest of the worldwide Catholic Church (laity) truly has their own work cut out for them.

  • “True marriage”, John? Have you ever read history? Or looked at sociological studies of modern marriages? Love defines marriage and not laws. Same as with spiritual consciousness. Book ideas about it are not it, only opinions of ancient men we don’t know from Adam. There are love relationships between differing species as you can find on a Google search fairly easily. If different species can love each other, show all the signs of heartbreak when they lose their partners, who the hell are you or Paul or any Gentile bible thumper to tell anyone about marriage between people who love each other? Take your bad religion ideas some place where people don’t think about what they believe and only follow orders written for them by highly prejudiced men, like Paul, who had zero experience in marriage as does Pope Francis and all the RCC priests telling others, commanding others how to think and act about something they are without personal knowledge of. Like college grads going out to work armed with book learning and finding out the real world doesn’t follow the book rules.

  • Jesus died for You You will go to Heaven

    “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. ” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:32)

    There was the First Aion Age when Jesus was walking the Earth and arguing with the Pharisees, which corresponds to when Jesus said “This age” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:31-32)

    There was the Second Aion Age when Jesus was dead in the tomb, which corresponds to when Jesus said “the age to come” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:31-32)

    There is a the Third Aion Age when Jesus was resurrected alive again and also is the Age when Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit is forgiven and is also the age that we are in now. This age goes on for eternity.

    Thus ALL GO TO HEAVEN and nothing changed about grace.

    Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the term word for unbelief.

    ALL GO TO HEAVEN BECAUSE unbelief is forgiven.

    A Time in the Life of Jesus is an Age because Jesus is God and is that important. Jesus was birthed into life on earth and that is one age. Jesus was birthed into death and that is a second age. Jesus was birthed out of death and that is a third age. The third age goes on forever because Jesus ascended to heaven and did not have to be birthed into heaven.

    “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. ” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:32)

    Matthew 12:32 is when Jesus canceled the Old Code of the law found in Matthew 12:31.

    “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:31)

    “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. ” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:32)

    In the Third age blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is forgiven along with all sins.

    Jesus died for You You will go to Heaven.

    Jesus died for ALL ALL go to Heaven.

    We are in the Third Age like in the Hobbit.

    Sauron was using orks to hand Blasphemers to Satan. (Bible,NT, 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 1:20) The one ring is the mental illness that results when people say blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is Unforgivable or that we are not in the third age of Christ.

    BOOKS;

    “Destined For Salvation: Gods Promise to Save Everyone” (Kalen Fristad)

    “Dare We Hope That ALL Men Be Saved: With a Brief Discourse on Hell” (Hans Urs Von Balthasar)

  • Yes, Max, it surely does not provide truths, but its lies are truly visible. Reform will most likely not cure that problem.

  • Dear Stephen,
    You are right if we are thinking of only the dynamics of this visible world. What if someone is interested in the invisible and the transcendental and specifically the Word of God?
    John P. S.

  • Jesus died for You You will go to Heaven

    “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. ” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:32)

    There was the First Aion Age when Jesus was walking the Earth and arguing with the Pharisees, which corresponds to when Jesus said “This age” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:31-32)
    There was the Second Aion Age when Jesus was dead in the tomb, which corresponds to when Jesus said “the age to come” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:31-32)
    There is a the Third Aion Age when Jesus was resurrected alive again and also is the Age when Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit is forgiven and is also the age that we are in now. This age goes on for eternity.

    Thus ALL GO TO HEAVEN and nothing changed about grace.
    Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the term word for unbelief.
    ALL GO TO HEAVEN BECAUSE unbelief is forgiven.

    A Time in the Life of Jesus is an Age because Jesus is God and is that important. Jesus was birthed into life on earth and that is one age. Jesus was birthed into death and that is a second age. Jesus was birthed out of death and that is a third age. The third age goes on forever because Jesus ascended to heaven and did not have to be birthed into heaven.

    “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. ” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:32)

    Matthew 12:32 is when Jesus canceled the Old Code of the law found in Matthew 12:31.

    “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:31)

    “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. ” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:32)

    In the Third age blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is forgiven along with all sins.

    Jesus died for You You will go to Heaven.
    Jesus died for ALL ALL go to Heaven. 

    BOOKS;

    “Destined For Salvation: Gods Promise to Save Everyone” (Kalen Fristad)
    “Dare We Hope That ALL Men Be Saved: With a Brief Discourse on Hell” (Hans Urs Von Balthasar)

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