Pope Francis urged reform of the Vatican Thursday during a meeting of more than 165 cardinals in Rome. Continuing Friday, the two-day papal consistory is considering proposals to overhaul the Roman Catholic Church’s central authority, one of Francis’ main issues.
“Reform is not an end in itself, but a means to give a strong Christian witness,” Francis said. He added it will promote church spirit, “more effective evangelization” and “a more constructive dialogue with all.”
The major proposal centers on consolidating smaller offices into two large groupings, called congregations: one for family, laity and life, and the other for charity, justice and peace. The latter grouping would encompass a new section for “safeguarding creation,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican representative, said at a press conference Wednesday.
“There is an ecclesial and theological vision” behind the planned consolidation, the Catholic Herald quoted Lombardi as saying. “It is not just about taking certain offices and putting them together in order to reduce their number.” He explained one of the groupings stems from the belief that charity is seen as “fundamental to the essence, existence and mission of the church,” the Herald reported.
Lombardi indicated the planned consolidation is the sole proposal to be discussed by the entire College of Cardinals at this meeting. “It does not seem to me that there are many other concrete ideas,” he said.
“Certainly, this goal is not easy to achieve,” Francis said in his speech Thursday. “It requires time, determination and, above all, everyone’s cooperation.”
This isn’t the first time Francis has emphasized the need for Curia reform. He initially pledged to revamp the church hierarchy in December 2013 during a meeting with cardinals. Since then, he has demoted problematic members of the clergy, while promoting other people. In his traditional Christmas greeting last December, Francis listed 15 “ailments” that have plagued Vatican hierarchy, including the “terrorism of gossip,” “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and the “pathology of power.”
According to the pontiff, “These and other maladies and temptations are a danger for every Christian and for any administrative organization.” He said they can “strike at both the individual and the corporate level.”