Vatican City, 2 May 2013 (VIS) – On 13 April, the news that Pope Francis had established a group of eight cardinals to advise him on the government of the universal Church and to study a plan for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, “Pastor Bonus” was made public. The decision generated great interest and, at the same time, more than a few speculations. Yesterday, 1 May, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, substitute of the Secretariat of State, gave an interview on this topic to the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, from which ample extracts are given below.
Osservatore Romano: Much speculation has been heard regarding the reform of the Curia: the balance of power, economic “super-ministers”, revolutions, etc...
Archbishop Becciu: "Actually, it is a little strange. The Pope has not yet met with the group of advisers who have been chosen and already advice is raining down. After having spoken with the Holy Father, I can say that, at this moment, it is absolutely premature to put forward any hypothesis about the future structure of the Curia. Pope Francis is listening to everyone but, in the first place, he will want to listen to those whom he has chosen as advisers. Following that, a project of reform of the 'Pastor Bonus' will be outlined, which will obviously have to follow its own process."
OR: Likewise, much has been said about the IOR, the Institute for Religious Works. Some have gone so far as to predict its elimination.
AB: "The Pope was surprised to see words attributed to him that he never said and that misrepresent his thoughts. The only mention about it was during a brief homily at the Santa Marta, made off the cuff, in which he passionately recalled how the essence of the Church consists in a story of love between God and human beings, and how the various human structures, the IOR among them, should be less important. His reference was a mention, motivated by the presence of some of the employees of the IOR at the Mass, in the context of a serious invitation to never lose sight of the essential nature of the Church."
OR: Should we expect that a restructuring of the current organization of dicasteries may not be imminent?
AB: "I don't know how to predict the timing. The Pope, in any case, has asked us all, the heads of dicasteries, to continue in our service, without, however, wanting to proceed for the moment in confirming any positions. The same holds for the members of the Congregations and the Pontifical Councils: the normal cycle of confirmations or nominations, which occur at end of five-year mandates, is for the moment suspended, and everyone continues in their assigned job 'until otherwise provided for' ('donec aliter provideatur'). This indicates the Holy Father's desire to take the time needed for reflection—and for prayer, we must not forget—in order to have the full picture of the situation."
OR: Regarding the group of advisers, some have argued that such a choice might put the Pope's primacy in question...
AB: It is a consultative, not a decision-making, body and I truly do not see how Pope Francis' choice might put the primacy in question. However, it is true that it is a gesture of great importance, which means to send a clear signal regarding the way in which the Holy Father would like to exercise his ministry. We must not forget the first task that has been assigned to the group of eight cardinals: to assist the pontiff in the government of the universal Church. I would not like for curiosity regarding the arrangement and the structures of the Roman curia to overshadow the profound meaning of Pope Francis' gesture.
OR: But isn't the expression “to advise” a little too vague?
AB: On the contrary, advising is an important task that is theologically defined in the Church and that finds expression on many levels. Think, for example, of the bodies participating in dioceses and parishes, or of councils of superiors, provincials, and generals in the Institutes of consecrated life. The function of advising must be interpreted in theological terms: from a worldly perspective we should say that a council without decision-making power is irrelevant but that would mean equating the Church to a business. Instead, theologically, advising has a function of absolute importance: helping the superior in the task of discernment, in understanding what the Spirit asks of the Church in a precise historical moment. Without this reference, for that matter, it wouldn't even be possible to understand the true meaning of the action of government in the Church.