Vatican News

Curia reform: Changing attitudes, not just structures

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Evandro Inetti, pool

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, attends Pope Francis' annual pre-Christmas meeting with top officials of the Roman Curia at the Vatican in this Dec. 21, 2015, file photo. The pope is planning a major reorganization of the Roman Curia. (CNS photo/Evandro Inetti) See VATICAN-LETTER-CURIA July 11, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' plan for the reform of the Roman Curia will change the names of several offices and merge a few of them, but the biggest change it hopes to spark is one of attitude.

The last major reorganization of the Curia came with St. John Paul II's apostolic constitution, "Pastor Bonus" (The Good Shepherd) in 1988, which -- in its very first sentence -- spoke of Jesus entrusting the apostles with "the mission of making disciples in all nations and of preaching the Gospel to every creature."

To facilitate that mission in the modern world, St. John Paul had said, the church needs a structure to promote "communion," which "glues the whole church together."

Pope Francis' successor document to "Pastor Bonus" is tentatively called "Praedicate Evangelium" (Preach the Gospel), and drafts of it were sent to bishops and a variety of experts for comment in the spring.

Of course, promoting the communion of the church and preaching the Gospel are essential tasks for the popes. For Catholics they are inextricably bound together, and one makes little sense without the other.

But when one is emphasized more than the other, priorities change.

The energy of the Curia can be directed to promoting unity, offering direction and gathering suggestions and ideas, a somewhat inward gaze that could increase the perceived authority of curial officials. The risk is a tendency toward uniformity and thinking that the closer one is to the center, the more authority he has.

On the other hand, the Curia's efforts can focus on encouraging outreach and new initiatives for evangelization, an outward gaze that could decrease the perceived authority of curial officials. The risk here is possible fragmentation and a sense that every diocese, movement and group is free to do its own thing.

Finding the right balance has been a goal of Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals.

At the pre-conclave meetings before the election of Pope Francis in 2013, cardinals said one thing they wanted under a new pope was a reform of the Roman Curia to promote efficiency and a greater sense of service to bishops around the world.

Bishops from every continent who have made their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican over the past six years have said that already is occurring. Previously, many have said, they would visit a Vatican office and be told what they needed to do; sometimes it even approached a scolding. Now, they say, the predominant attitude is: "How can we help you?"

The structural reorganization of the Roman Curia has taken much more time than many people expected. Six years ago the pope and members of the Council of Cardinals began studying each Vatican office, its responsibilities, special projects and staffing. Only then did they begin discussing ways to reform the Curia.

Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, council secretary, told reporters in late June that the council hoped the new constitution could be finalized and given to the pope in September, but certainly by the end of the year.

News reports about leaked copies of the draft obviously focused on the "news": the combining of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization into the Dicastery for Evangelization; the fact that the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith is listed after the evangelization office, which some read as downgrading its importance; and combining the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Culture.

But like with "Pastor Bonus," the names of offices of the Roman Curia and their tasks as outlined in "Praedicate Evangelium" make little sense apart from the introduction explaining the role of the Curia.

The introductions of the two documents both use the word "diakonia" -- service -- and both speak of the curial offices as an extension of the ministry of the pope in whose name the Curia acts.

Most commentary on the new draft document has tended to focus on how the Curia will be losing power, especially in relation to local bishops and bishops' conferences. However, some seem to think the emphasis on the Curia being at the service of the pope means the pope gains power under the new arrangement.

The draft document gives a high-profile coordinating role to the Vatican Secretariat of State, but it is a role that it has had for the past 30 years.

"Pastor Bonus" said, "The Secretariat of State provides close assistance to the supreme pontiff in the exercise of his supreme office." The English translation of "Praedicate Evangelium" uses almost the exact description: "The Secretariat of State closely assists the supreme pontiff in the exercise of his supreme mission."

And both documents specify that the secretary of state is a cardinal.

Unlike "Pastor Bonus," which said that prefects of congregations must be cardinals, in Pope Francis' document the Secretariat of State is the only office where a cardinal head is explicitly required.

"Pastor Bonus" also stated that the full members of most of the congregations were cardinals and "some bishops," while the consultants could include priests and lay experts.

Pope Francis seemed to signal a change already in early July when he named seven women and a religious brother as full members of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

"Praedicate Evangelium" says the reform of the Curia should involve "lay women and men in governing roles of importance and responsibility."

Reflecting a frequent call of Pope Francis, the draft document includes references to "synodality" and creating a more "synodal church," meaning one in which all members listen to one another, reflect together and offer each other their talents.

Pope Francis is not about to dismantle the hierarchical structure of the church -- a structure he believes is a gift of God -- but he does see plenty of room for expanding the voices heard in any discussion.

A new curial structure is not the goal, the draft says. Rather, the aim is to promote a stronger Christian witness, more effective evangelization, more fruitful ecumenical engagement and "a more constructive dialogue with all."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

Not the usual suspects: Cardinal wants parish teams of risk-takers

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, papal vicar for the Diocese of Rome, smiles during a reception after a consistory at the Vatican in this June 28, 2018, file photo. Cardinal De Donatis has asked every pastor in the Diocese of Rome to form a team for neighborhood missionary outreach. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See ROME-PARISH-TEAMS July 12, 2019.

ROME (CNS) -- The papal vicar for Rome has asked every pastor in the diocese to form a "pastoral team" of about a dozen "courageous explorers" to help launch a new neighborhood missionary outreach.

"Don't go looking for those who have shown they are prudent, measured and detail-oriented," Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the papal vicar, wrote in a letter to pastors July 11.

Instead, he said, the team should be made up of "people who draw outside the lines, people whom the Holy Spirit has made passionate about imperfection."

The diocese's 2019-2020 pastoral year is focused on "listening to the cry of the city" and responding with stronger parish communities, a greater focus on Sunday Mass, visiting the poor and lonely, providing concrete assistance to those in need and reaching out to young people and families.

Cardinal De Donatis suggested the priests look for 12 people to serve on the pastoral team. The number is not a requirement, he said, but should send a message to Catholics that the parish is looking "for a small group from which everything set out."

"We do not need competent and qualified professionals as much as Christians who apparently are like everyone else but, in reality, are able to dream, to infect others with their dreams and want to experience something new," the cardinal wrote.

"Perhaps," he told the pastors, "these are people you have tried to contain a bit up until now -- frankly, they can be destabilizing -- but no more; you must draw them near, listen to them, value them and let them act so they can disturb the drowsy tranquility of others."

And, he said, it is possible they will make mistakes, but that is better than having a parish that never tries anything new.

The pastoral team's first responsibility, he said, is to go out into the neighborhood that comprises the parish territory, talk to people, observe and then "map the characteristics" in light of the area's history and the lifestyle of residents. The description should include the presence of schools, workplaces, places where people gather, pockets of greater poverty, areas of "social violence" and the presence of organized crime.

The team must meet often with the pastor and with catechists, leaders of parish groups and youth and young adult ministers to listen to their observations and brainstorm together about how to help all parishioners live their faith more openly and share it with others in the neighborhood, he said.

Cardinal De Donatis said he hope the result would be that "our diocesan church would end up more attentive to others, more aware of people's deepest questions, more convinced of the Good News that it is called to proclaim and more sensitive to God's inspiration."

Update: Praising God for gift of creation leads to respect for it, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Nacho Doce, Reuters

This is an aerial view of a deforested plot of the Amazon at the Bom Futuro National Forest in Porto Velho, Brazil, Sept. 3, 2015. In a message sent in early July to participants of an Italian conference on the consequences of deforestation in the Amazon, Pope Francis said the current situation in the South American rainforest "is a sad paradigm of what is happening in many parts of the planet." (CNS photo/Nacho Doce, Reuters) See POPE-LAUDATO-FORUM July 11, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Human beings are called to praise God for his gift of creation, not be predators out to plunder the earth and all it contains, Pope Francis said.

In a message sent July 8 to participants of an Italian conference on the consequences of deforestation in the Amazon, the pope said the current situation in the South American rainforest "is a sad paradigm of what is happening in many parts of the planet."

It is "a blind and destructive mentality that prefers profit to justice; it highlights the predatory attitude with which men and women relate to nature," he said. "Please do not forget that social justice and ecology are deeply interconnected."

According to its website, the international forum sponsored by the Laudato Si' Community, an association inspired by the pope's encyclical on the environment, reflected on the Amazon as "the key to 'ecological conversion'" in order to obtain a "better understanding of integral ecology and obtain the knowledge of living in harmony with creation."

The conference took place in the central Italian town of Amatrice, which was devastated in 2016 after a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck the region. Amatrice was the hardest-hit town, accounting for 234 of the estimated 290 deaths, according to the Italian Civil Protection office.

In his message, the pope said the conference's location was "a sign of hope" as well as a "sign of closeness to so many brothers and sisters who still live at the crossroads between the memory of a frightening tragedy and a reconstruction that is slow to take off."

Regarding the conference's theme, the pope said the deforestation and exploitation of the Amazon and its inhabitants has brought thousands of men and women to their knees and forced them to "become foreigners in their own land, deprived them of their own culture and tradition and broke the balance that united these peoples to their land for millennia."

Citing St. Paul VI's encyclical on integral human development, "Populorum Progressio," the pope said that humankind can no longer "remain an indifferent spectator in the face of this destruction, nor can the church remain mute: the cry of the poor must resound."

Pope Francis also offered three attitudes for the conference participants to reflect upon when discussing the care of the environment. The first word, doxology -- the liturgical formula of praise to God -- is the attitude that all men and women must have before the beauty of God's creation.

"Praise is the fruit of contemplation, contemplation and praise lead to respect and respect becomes almost veneration before the goods of creation and its creator," the pope said.

An attitude that is eucharistic, he continued, helps men and women grasp the gift of life and recognize that "everything is given to us free of charge, not to be looted or devoured but to be a gift meant to be shared, a gift to be given."

Finally, an ascetic attitude toward the environment is important so that people may "know how to give up something for a greater good, for the good of others.

Asceticism, Pope Francis said, "helps us to convert a predatory attitude -- that is always lurking -- into sharing, building a relationship that is ecological, respectful and kind."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

Update: Vatican discovers empty tombs as it searches for missing woman

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media

Workers open the tomb of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who died in 1836, during a forensic investigation in the Teutonic Cemetery at the Vatican July 11, 2019. Two tombs were opened based on a tip that the remains of Emanuela Orlandi, who disappeared in 1983, could be buried there. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) See VATICAN-FORENSIC-ORLANDI July 10, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Opening the Vatican tombs of a princess and a duchess July 11 in a search for the remains of a young Italian woman missing for more than 30 years, the Vatican found no human remains at all.

"The search had a negative result," said Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office. "No human remains or funeral urns were found."

Now, Gisotti said, Vatican officials will go into the archives to study documents dealing with "structural interventions carried out in the area" of the Teutonic Cemetery at the end of the 1800s and again in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The cemetery, existing since the Middle Ages, is now reserved mainly for German-speaking priests and members of religious orders.

The side-by-side tombs had been marked as the final resting places of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who died in 1836, and Duchess Charlotte Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the mother of King Frederick VII of Denmark, who died in 1840.

Gisotti said July 13 that investigators believe the remains of the noblewomen may have been moved more than 40 years ago when the Pontifical Teutonic College was expanded. They have sealed off two ossuaries -- vaults containing the bones of multiple persons -- in the floor of the college and plan to open them July 20. In Italy, to create space, it is common to move older remains from a tomb to an ossuary or common grave.

A Vatican City State court had ordered the opening of the tombs at the request of the family of Emanuela Orlandi, who disappeared in Rome June 22, 1983, at age 15. She was a Vatican City resident and daughter of a Vatican employee.

In March, the Orlandi family's lawyer revealed the family had been sent a letter with a photo of an angel above a tomb in the Vatican cemetery. The letter said, "Look where the angel is pointing," according to Laura Sgro, the lawyer.

Vatican workers, supervised by Vatican police and a forensic anthropologist, opened the tombs July 11 after a short prayer was recited by the graves. Sgro was present, along with Pietro Orlandi, the brother of the missing woman.

"We want to reemphasize that the Holy See always has shown attention and closeness to the suffering of the Orlandi family, particularly her mother," Gisotti said. Opening the tombs at the family's request was another sign of that concern.

For decades, Orlandi's case has been the obsession of conspiracy theorists who linked her disappearance to Freemasons, organized crime, the attempted assassination of St. John Paul II and other unsubstantiated theories.

Gisotti said that under a marble slab that was believed to be Princess Sophie's tomb there was a large subterranean opening, measuring four meters by 3.7 meters (13 feet by 12 feet), "completely empty."

Moving on to the presumed tomb of Duchess Charlotte, Gisotti said, "no human remains were found."

Relatives of both women were informed, he said.

On the eve of the opening of the tombs, Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Dicastery for Communication, interviewed Giovanni Arcudi, the forensic anthropologist who was to lead the scientific investigation of the remains in the two tombs in the Vatican's Teutonic Cemetery.

In the interview, published July 10, Arcudi emphasized the need for careful analysis of the remains in the tombs before knowing if they could provide answers to the Orlandi case, which has remained unsolved for more than three decades.

"Apart from the morphological examination of the bones, the DNA examination will be done in any case to reach certainties and to exclude in a definitive and categorical way that there is some evidence in the two tombs that can be attributed to poor Emanuela," Arcudi said.

The anthropologist had expected to find bones in the tombs and had planned to extract and clean them and piece together the skeletal remains to determine the number of deceased persons that were buried as well as their age and sex.

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Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves at the Vatican.


Love of God, love of neighbor are tied together, pope says

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/David Mercado, Reuters

Venezuelan children in La Paz, Bolivia, play with toys next to the Chilean consulate July 1, 2019, while their parents wait for migration documents. Praying that Catholics would understand and act on "the inseparable bond" between love of God and love of neighbor, Pope Francis again appealed for a solution to the crisis in Venezuela after reciting the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican July 14. (CNS photo/David Mercado, Reuters) See POPE-ANGELUS-VENEZUELA-SAMARITAN July 15, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Praying that Catholics would understand and act on "the inseparable bond" between love of God and love of neighbor, Pope Francis again appealed for a solution to the crisis in Venezuela.

"We pray that the Lord will inspire and enlighten the parties in conflict so that as soon as possible they arrive at an agreement that puts an end to the suffering of the people for the good of the country and the entire region," the pope said July 14 after reciting the Angelus prayer.

In early June, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported that the number of Venezuelans who had fled the violence, extreme poverty and lack of medicines in their country had reached 4 million since 2015.

In his main Angelus talk, commenting on the Sunday Gospel reading of the story of the good Samaritan, Pope Francis said it teaches that "compassion is the benchmark" of Christianity.

Jesus' story about the Samaritan stopping to help a man who had been robbed and beaten after a priest and Levite just walked by, "makes us understand that we, without our criteria, are not the ones who decide who is our neighbor and who isn't," the pope said.

Rather, he said, it is the person in need who identifies the neighbor, finding it in the person who has compassion and stops to help.

"Being able to have compassion; this is the key," the pope said. "If you stand before a person in need and don't feel compassion, if your heart is not moved, that means something is wrong. Be attentive."

"If you are walking down the street and see a homeless person lying there and you pass without looking at him or you think, 'That's the wine. He's a drunk,' ask yourself if your heart has not become rigid, if your heart has not become ice," the pope said.

Jesus' command to be like the good Samaritan, he said, "indicates that mercy toward a human being in need is the true face of love. And that is how you become true disciples of Jesus and show others the Father's face."

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