Council of Cardinals continues discussions on selection of Catholic bishops

Rome — The group of cardinals advising Pope Francis on reforming the Catholic church's central bureaucracy spent time in their latest meeting discussing how Catholic bishops around the world are selected, the Vatican's main spokesman said Wednesday.

Gregory Burke, the head of the Holy See press office, said the nine-member Council of Cardinals focused particularly on the role the Vatican's various global ambassadors, known as apostolic nuncios, play in helping select new bishops.

"The cardinals reflected extensively on the spiritual and pastoral profile necessary for a bishop today," Burke said in a statement following the cardinals' meeting.

"They spoke of the diplomatic service of the Holy See and of the formation and duties of apostolic nuncios, with particular attention to their great responsibility in choosing candidates for the episcopacy," Burke continued.

The Council, created by Francis to help him in reforming what is known as the Roman Curia, has been meeting with the pope in Rome Monday through Wednesday for the 16th of its in-person meetings.

The only American serving in the group is Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley.

Apostolic nuncios are normally responsible for recommending to the pope three possible candidates to become leaders in Catholic dioceses that need bishops in the countries of their postings.

The Council of Cardinals is known to have previously discussed the selection of bishops around the world in their meeting held last April.

Burke said the Council's discussions at this week's meeting "were dedicated in major part to further considerations about how the various dicasteries of the Curia may better serve the mission of the Church."

The spokesman said the group spoke particularly about four Vatican offices: the Congregations for the Clergy, for the Bishops, and for Catholic Education; and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Congregation for Bishops, was present for one session of the meeting to speak about his congregation's work, Burke said.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, head of the new centralized Secretariat of the Economy, also gave a presentation, as did O'Malley, who leads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The next meeting of the Council of Cardinals is set for Dec. 12-14.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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