Eight Cardinals from around the world have been asked by Pope Francis to advise him on reforms to the Roman Curia.
The Vatican announced April 13 that Pope Francis had appointed eight cardinals to be part of an advisory panel to help him make changes to “Pastor Bonus,” the Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope John Paul II in 1988 about the curia. In a statement the Vatican said the idea of creating such a panel arose during the General Congregation meetings that took place before the recent conclave.
Should Pope Francis make changes to the various departments of the Vatican, it would not be the first time such changes were made. The Curia as is exists today is largely the result of reforms made by Pope Paul VI in 1967.
When Paul VI was elected pope in 1963 the Secretariat of State had three departments, including a Chancery for Apostolic Briefs. Additionally the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs reported to the Cardinal Secretary of State. One office handled the economic affairs of the Holy See: the Apostolic Camera. The Curia included a total of five Pontifical Commissions and 11 Congregations. One of those congregations was the Congregation for the Council. Created in 1564, it was originally the Congregation for the Interpretation of the Council of Trent.
In 1967 Pope Paul VI issued the Apostolic Constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, changing the structure of the Secretariat of State, and redefining the role and name of some Congregations.
Paul VI suppressed the Secretariat of State’s Chancery for Apostolic Briefs and created a Council for the Public Affairs of the Church. Two additional offices were created to oversee different aspects of the economic affairs of the Church: the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See and the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. Two new councils were created: Cor Unum, which would effectively become the Church’s charity arm, and the Council for the Laity. The pope also created the Secretariat for Non – Christians. Several congregations had name changes, including the Congregation for the Council (of Trent) and the Holy Office. The former became the Council for the Clergy, the latter became the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
John Paul II
This was the Curia that John Paul II inherited in 1978. Ten years into his pontificate he called together a panel of cardinals to advise him on reforms to the curia. Although the cardinals came from different parts of the world, when John Paul II called on them for help they were all serving as Vatican officials.
The 1988 Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus made some changes to the Secretariat of State. The Council for Public Affairs of the Church was absorbed back into the structure of the Secretariat, which itself was divided into two sections: the section for Relations with States, and the section for General Affaris. Several commissions were upgraded to Councils. The Congregation for Bishops, lost some jurisdiction when the Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants was created. Until 1988 the Congregation for Bishops dealt with the issue of pastoral care for migrants and other itinerant peoples. Otherwise, the constitution clarified the role of existing congregations and offices.
Pope Francis named his advisory team one month into his pontificate. The group will officially meet for the first time October 1-3, 2013, however Pope Francis is already in contact with the members of the panel.
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