Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pope Francis drops first hint that reform may be real

John L. Allen,Jr.
National Catholic Reporter
March 16, 2013

In the first clear signal that Pope Francis may be serious about reform, he's decided that the heads of the various Vatican offices will keep their jobs for now, but he's not making any definitive appointments.

It’s customary for new popes to swiftly reconfirm the department heads who lose their positions when the previous pontificate ends, and then take his time about bringing in his team. The fact that Francis has not followed that path may suggest that significant personnel moves will come sooner rather than later.

So far, the storyline about Francis has been mostly about style – taking the bus with the other cardinals, preferring to walk rather than being driven, packing his own bags and paying his own hotel bill, and setting aside his prepared texts for off-the-cuff personal reflections.

At some point, however, style will have to give way to substance, and today’s announcement marks the first indication of what that substance might look like.

Vatican-watchers are paying keen attention above all to what Francis does about the all-important position of Secretary of State, held under Benedict XVI by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Fairly or not, Bertone shoulders most of the blame for perceived breakdowns in business management over the last eight years, and most people presume that Francis will move quickly to bring in his own “prime minister.”

That appointment shapes up as the first unmistakable signal of where the new pope wants to go, and how much of a break with business as usual he plans to pursue.

In today’s statement, the Vatican said that Francis has expressed the desire that “all the heads and members of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, as well as the secretaries and the president of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State, provisionally continue in their respective capacities.”

It added that these appointments are donec aliter provideatur, “until other provisions are made.”

“The Holy Father desires, in fact, to reserve a certain period for reflection, prayer and dialogue before [making] any definitive nomination or confirmation.”

Most observers believe new appointments, including the Secretary of State, won’t roll out until after Holy Week. Today’s statement, however, suggests that a changing of the guard may not be long in the offing.

During a meeting with journalists today, Francis said that some cardinals had suggested that he ought to take the name of Adrian, in honor of the reforming pope Adrian VI. Though said with a sense of humor, the insight revealed that many cardinals expect the new pontiff to be a reformer, including getting the Roman Curia under control.

During the pre-conclave period, cardinals defined reform of the Vatican in terms of three key points:

Greater transparency, both internally and externally
Greater accountability, including consequences for poor performance
Greater efficiency, as opposed to the traditionally glacial pace at which business is conducted
Today was the first real indication that Francis may be serious about reform, beginning with who moves the levers of power inside the Vatican.


Peter’s Square and then deliver the Angelus address.

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