Following the first consistory of Pope Francis’ pontificate the first major overhaul of the Roman Curia was revealed.
Pope Francis created the Secretariat for the Economy and appointed Australian Cardinal George Pell as the prefect of the new secretariat. This new body will oversee the finances of all Vatican departments, carry out budgeting and forecasting, and oversee hiring.
A second body, the Council for the Economy, was also established this week. It will be made up of 15 people. Eight of those members will be cardinals or bishops and seven will be laypeople with professional experiences in the area.
Speaking to Catholic News Service, South African Cardinal Wilfred Napier who sat on one of the advisory panels studying the economic and administrative activities of the Holy See, said to date the Vatican has done anything that can be considered real budgeting.
No decision has been made yet regarding the future of the Institute for Works of Religion, commonly referred to as the Vatican Bank.
The creation of these two new bodies is a step towards bringing the Vatican’s administrative and financial activities a new level of efficiency and effectivness.
The changes in the Roman Curia were eclipsed only by the rising tensions in two parts of the world: Ukraine and Venezuela.
In both countries the church has played a role in attempts to quell the violence and bring about peace.
In Ukraine, where protests began three months ago, Christian churches stood alongside protestors watching student-based political protests evolve into a wide ranging uprising involving citizens from all walks of life.
On February 28 Ukranian Catholic Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told Salt and Light, “we have a government that works now, but the situation in Crimea is very tense.” The Archbishop was speaking on the phone from Lviv where he was meeting with the permanent synod of the Ukranian Catholic Church.
Archbishop Shevchuk said churches had functioned as medical centres during the worst of the protests. He said the damage, however, was not just physical but psychological and spiritual as well. The challenge, he said, is to encourage solidarity, help foster dialogue and reconciliation, and provide long term care to citizens now affected by Post Traumatic Stress (PTS).
Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski of New Westminster, British Colombia was also in Lviv for the meeting of the church’s permanent synod. He told Salt and Light the church is partnering with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Caritas Ukraine to provide long term medical care to people affected by PTS.
In Venezuela, where students began protesting the lack of public security after an attempted rape in San Cristobal, bishops have met with students leading groups for and against the current government. Salt and Light learned February 26 the Venezuelan Bishops Conference was scheduled to meet with the government to discuss the national situation.
Student protests continued after those meetings. On February 28 the Diocese of Guayana announced via Twitter the opening of a Human Rights Office and invited anyone who had experienced a violation of their human rights to come forward and file a claim with the office.
Pope Francis has called for a peaceful resolution to the situation in Ukraine, and asked all Venezuelans to promote dialogue as a way towards reconciliation. The Holy Father also asked all faithful to pray to Our Lady of Coromoto for peace in Venezuela.