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Crucial week for Pope Francis' reforms opens

Talks on organisation, consistory on family, new cardinals

17 February, 12:59
Crucial week for Pope Francis' reforms opens (By Fausto Gasparroni) (ANSA) - Vatican City, February 17 - A key phase of seven to 10 days is opening Monday as Pope Francis is launching a reform process aimed at giving a new structure to the Roman Curia and the universal Church. The eight-member College of Cardinals helping Francis govern the Church and reform the Curia will begin its meeting Monday through Wednesday. The so-called "G8" was appointed by the pope to advise him on reform.

A pre-consistory of the whole College of Cardinals, the Church's "Senate", will follow on February 20 and 21 to discuss the theme of family.

Then a consistory has been scheduled on Saturday and Sunday, February 22-23, at which Pope Francis will be naming 19 new cardinals - including 16 cardinal electors and three over the age of 80.

The Secretariat of the Synod of bishops will then meet on Monday and Tuesday, February 24-25, ahead of the next Synod in October, which will be devoted to family ("The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization").

Meanwhile at the same time, cardinals and bishops with the pontifical "committee of 15" in charge of the Holy See's economic-financial affairs will also be meeting.

The third meeting of the eight-member panel starting Monday will examine the outcome of previous summits of Vatican congregations and then focus on the Curia's Pontifical Councils with likely mergers provided for in the next apostolic constitution replacing the current charter known as "Pastor Bonus", drawn up by John Paul II.

There are many ongoing rumors including one suggesting that the Pontifical Councils could be absorbed by a potential Congregation for the Laity (Cardinal Sean O'Malley, a member of the "G8", has suggested it could be led by a woman). Another rumour suggests the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples could be absorbed by Propaganda Fide; the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants could merge with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Council for Social Communications with the Pontifical Council for Culture. All these issues will be examined by the eight cardinals together with the pontiff who will have the final say on the matter.

The G8 session will also focus for the first time on economic councils, listening to reports by the two "ad hoc" commissions created by Francis - the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, a special commission to reform its economic and administrative departments, and the commission overseeing the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), commonly referred to as the Vatican bank.

A merger of institutions has also been suggested here, with the possible creation of a "super-ministry" of economy, or a "finance ministry" as defined by Cardinal Oscar Rogriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the eight-member panel.

The future structure of IOR and its potential transformation into an ethical bank, the possible merger of functions currently undertaken by the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), will be on the agenda.

However, the agenda this week of the pontiff and cardinals will not exclusively focus on organizational matters.

The pastoral challenges of the family, discussed by the consistory and the Synod council, is one of the priorities of Francis' pontificate: a number of countries and episcopates have been calling for reforms, in particular concerning couples who have separated or divorced, sacraments to be granted to those who have remarried and cohabiting couples, as well as many other issues on which mainstream Catholics tend to feel very differently from the official doctrine.

The pontiff has decided to dedicate two Synods of bishops to these issues - one next October and one scheduled in 2015 - in order for future decisions to be taken "collectively".

An aspect concerning future ecclesial identity will be the appointment on Saturday, February 22, of 16 new cardinal electors representing all continents and, in many cases, also Churches operating within contexts of great poverty and marginalisation - those "existential outskirts" that are so dear to Pope Francis and his idea of the Church.

Finally, the Vatican bank's oversight committee of cardinals will meet to elect their new president.

The pontiff last month replaced four of its five members - appointing as a new member, among others, newly instated Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to replace his predecessor Tarcisio Bertone.