Vatican City — The Catholic cardinals advising Pope Francis on reforming the church’s central bureaucracy have decided to focus their next meeting in February 2016 on the possible decentralization of the global church’s structures, the Vatican has announced.
The Council of Cardinals will focus their reflections on an October speech by Francis that called for a “healthy decentralization” of the church, the Vatican said Saturday.
The Cardinals’ council is a group of nine prelates advising the pope on reforming the Vatican bureaucracy, known as the Roman Curia. They had been meeting in Rome for the twelfth time Thursday-Saturday.
Their advice to the pope is known to have led to the institution of a new papal commission to protect minors, the new Secretariat for the Economy that centralizes the Vatican’s financial structures, and the planned new Vatican office for “Laity, Family and Life” that is to combine several current offices.
Saturday’s release refers to a speech the pontiff made Oct. 17 during the Synod of Bishops, the three-week global meeting of Catholic prelates in Rome that discussed issues of family life. In that speech, Francis called for a more “synodal” church that listens to people at every level.
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Quoting from his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the pope said then he could not substitute the ability of bishops around the world to discern the problems facing Catholics in their regions and was aware “of the need to proceed with a healthy ‘decentralization.’”
“In its reflections, the Council has noted the importance of the Holy Father’s Oct. 17 discourse, in occasion of the Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops,” Saturday’s statement said.
“In that discourse, the Pope had extensively developed the theme of ‘synodality’ but also recalled ‘the need to proceed with a healthy ‘decentralization,’” it continued.
“The Council has recalled the need to deepen the significance of that discourse and its importance also for the work of the reform of the Curia, so much so as to decide to dedicate a specific session to it during their upcoming meeting in February 2016,” it said.
The Vatican did not give much more information about the Council’s meeting this week, saying only that the prelates had continued to speak about the new “Laity, Family and Life” office and also about a proposal to create another new Vatican office for “Justice, Peace and Migration.”
That latter office has been the subject of speculation for months and would likely combine the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace with other offices to create one larger, centralized Vatican dicastery.
The Vatican said the Council had also heard from Cardinal George Pell, the head of the Secretariat for the Economy and a member of the Council, about a new working group at the Vatican reflecting on the future of the economic structures of the Holy See and the Vatican city-state.
The Vatican said Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, a member of the Council and the head of the new commission to protect minors, spoke of his commission’s ongoing work, especially in creating programs of education and formation to assist global episcopal conferences.
The Council’s meetings for 2016 were also announced as: Feb. 8-9, April 11-13, June 6-8, Sept. 12-14, and Dec. 12-14.