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Pope Francis' reform

· Interview with the Substitute of the Secretary of State ·

On 13 April the news was made public that Pope Francis had assembled a group of eight cardinals to advise him in the governance of the Universal Church and in order to study a project to revise the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus on the Roman Curia. This decision has aroused a great deal of interest, resulting in not a little speculation. On this issue Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Substitute of the Secretariat of State, gave an interview to L'Osservatore Romano .

There has been much speculation concerning the reform of the Curia, people are hypothesizing about the balance of power, moderators, coordinators, revolutions, etc...

Actually it is a little strange: the Pope has still not met with the group of advisers who have been chosen and yet advice is already pouring in.... After having spoken with the Holy Father, I can say that at this moment it is absolutely premature to put forward any hypotheses about the future make-up of the Curia. Pope Francis is listening to everyone, but in the first place he wants to listen to those he chose as advisers. Then, there will be a project of reform drafted for Pastor Bonus , that will obviously have to go through its own process.

Much has, likewise, been said about the IOR, the Institute for the Works of Religion; some have gone so far as to predict its abolition...

The Pope was surprised to see words attributed to him that he has never said and are even contrary to his thought. The only mention on the subject was during a brief homily at Santa Marta, of the cuff, in which he recalled in a passionate way that 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 little dig at some of the IOR staff members who were present, in the context of a serious invitation to never lose sight of the essential nature of the Church.

Should we expect an imminent restructuring in the current composition of dicasteries?

I cannot predict the timing. The Pope, in any case, has asked us all, the heads of dicasteries, to continue in our service, without, however, wanting — for the moment — to confirm any of the positions. The same holds for the members of the Congregations and the Pontifical Councils: the cycle of confirmation or nomination, that occurs regularly every five years, is for the moment suspended, so everyone continues in their job “until further notice” ( donec aliter provideatur ). This indicates the will of the Holy Father to take the necessary time for reflection — and for prayer, we must not forget — in order to have the full picture of the situation.

Some would argue that the group of advisers could jeopardize the primacy of the Pope...

We are speaking about a group of consultants, not a decision-making group, and I really don’t see how the choice of Pope Francis could call into question his primacy. It truly is, however, a gesture of great relevance, that means to signal the modality in which the Holy Father intends to carry out his ministry. We must not forget that the first task assigned to the group of eight cardinals is to assist the Pontiff in the governance of the Universal Church. I wouldn’t want curiosity about the formation and structures of the Roman Curia to overshadow the deeper meaning of this gesture made by Pope Francis.

Is not the term “advisor” a little vague?

On the contrary, advising is an important action, that in the Church is theologically defined and finds expression at many levels. Think of, for example, organizations at the diocesan and parish level, or supervisory boards, boards of superiors, provincial and general, in the Institutes of Consecrated Life. The function of advising should be interpreted from a theological perspective. From a worldly view we would have to say that a council without deliberative powers is irrelevant, but this would mean likening the Church to a company. Rather, theologically the adviser has a role of absolute importance: to help the superior in his work of discernment, in understanding what the Holy Spirit is asking of the Church in that precise historical moment. Without this reference, for that matter, you cannot even understand the true meaning of what governance in the Church is.

What is it like to work with Pope Francis?

I was able to work closely with Pope Benedict, now I am continuing my service with Pope Francis. Naturally each has his own personalities, style, and I feel truly privileged to have such close contact with two men so totally dedicated to the good of the Church as a whole, detached from themselves, immersed in God and with a single passion: to make known the beauty of the Gospel to the women and men of today.




St. Peter’s Square

Feb. 16, 2020