Vatican: Cardinals not expected to vote on curial reform

by Joshua J. McElwee

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The Catholic cardinals meeting with Pope Francis to discuss reform of the Vatican are continuing their conversations and are not expected to make any formal votes approving or disapproving changes to the church bureaucracy, the Vatican said Friday.

Speaking in a briefing with the press, spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi again indicated that the process to reform the Vatican bureaucracy may take longer than originally expected.

The some 160 prelates in Rome to discuss the reform, the spokesman said, have talked about the need to have a "gradual path" where some changes to the bureaucracy, known as the Roman Curia, may happen before a new organizational chart explaining the role of all Vatican offices is completed.

The cardinals are meeting Thursday and Friday at the Vatican to discuss the process of reform, which seems to be languishing in debates over the purpose, scope and role of the Curia.

On Saturday, Francis will name 20 new cardinals in a formal ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica.

The cardinals' meetings this week are secret, with no access to their remarks or summaries of what they said. Lombardi instead hosted a press briefing Friday afternoon summarizing some of the meeting's key themes.

The spokesman said the cardinals opened their meeting Friday morning with reports from Cardinals George Pell and Reinhard Marx, who are leading two new institutions at the Vatican to oversee financial reform, especially of the scandal-plagued Vatican bank.

Pell, an Australian, is the head of the new Vatican Secretariat for the Economy; Marx, a German, is the head of the Council of the Economy, which oversees the work of the secretariat.

Following those presentations, Lombardi said the cardinals asked about 20 questions about the two institutions' work, mainly focusing on what they have achieved so far.

Asked if the pope has intervened at any point in the cardinals' discussions, Lombardi said the pope is listening but has not intervened as he does not want to interfere.

Lombardi also said he did not think there would be any formal votes among the cardinals, as the meeting is "not a voting place" but a "fluid conversation."

There was a moment of humor in the briefing, when one journalist asked if retired Pope Benedict XVI might be coming to the event Saturday. Not hearing the question, Lombardi first replied: "Who?" before saying, "I confess I have not asked."

As the cardinals' meeting concludes Friday afternoon, the spokesman said he has no plans to brief reporters on the continuing discussions.

Among themes Lombardi said were discussed in the cardinals' interventions Thursday afternoon:

  • The relation between the Roman Curia and local churches, particularly "how to better serve the church in the world";
  • The notion of subsidiarity, or how the Roman Curia might share and divide responsibilities between local dioceses and bishops' conferences;
  • The need for the Vatican to serve local churches that do not have as many resources or where Catholics do not make up a  high number of the population;
  • A desire to "put a light" on the work the Vatican undertakes with other international institutions.

Lombardi also said Friday that one of the new cardinals -- former Manizales, Colombia, Archbishop José de Jesús Pimiento Rodríguez -- has not been able to travel to Rome for Saturday's ceremony because of his advanced age. The cardinal-designate turns 96 on Feb. 18.

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

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