One of the eight cardinal advisors of Francis, shares his impressions on Francis’s first 100 days, and envisages “a major re-configuration of the Roman Curia”.
Gerard O’Connell Taken from Vatican Insider
RomeThe cardinal archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, in Rome for various meetings in the Vatican, granted me this interview on June 24, in which he shared his impressions on Pope Francis’s first 100 days in office and discussed the reform of the Roman Curia.
“We’ve got a different type of Pope” who is “doing very well”, he said. But he also expressed some concern for the pope’s health because of “the cracking pace” at which he has begun his work.
Pell, one of the Pope’s eight cardinal advisors said he envisages “a major re-configuration” of the Roman Curia and hopes a better way can be set up to select people for positions at all levels in it.
Francis has been pope for 100 days. What are the two or three things that stand out in your mind from this period?
I think his recent encounter with the Harley Davidson riders was emblematic. Thousands of them came on these enormous motorbikes on Sunday morning to get a blessing from Francis. By all accounts, the Pope was perfectly at home with them, and blessed them. They gave him two big motorbikes which he’s going to sell off and give the proceeds to the poor.
I think that’s emblematic that we’ve got a different type of a pope. He’s a pope who very much understands the importance of symbols, and he’s inclined to talk through stories and parables.
He took the name of Francis. St Francis of Assisi was distinguished for many things, including one saying that’s allegedly come from him where he tells his brothers: “Preach (the Gospel) by deeds and, if necessary use words”. Now I think the Holy Father very much understands that, and so his style of teaching is quite different from that of Pope Benedict. Somebody said Benedict was a great teacher for intellectuals, bishops and priests, but Francis is much more immediate and direct, and for ordinary people. Then again, in another symbolic act, he rode in the bus with the other bishops after giving his first blessing to the people after his election. And, of course, he has decided to live in Santa Marta.
What do you make of his decision to stay at Santa Marta?
I think it’s obviously the action of a man who likes company. It’s very much the action of a Pope who does not want to be isolated and, if I could venture an hypothesis, I suspect it’s the action of a man who doesn’t want to be controlled. I’m all in favor of popes being popes.
Is there anything else that strikes you about his first 100 days?
Well I think he’s got to look after his health. He’s not a young man and he seems to be working incessantly. He’s obviously very tough and strong after years of work, but I think it’s in the interest of everybody that he doesn’t work too hard, or rather that he works hard in a way that he can cope with. But he’s certainly set a cracking pace.
As you know he’s staying in Rome for the holidays, and not going to Castel Gandolfo.
Pope Benedict is going to Castel Gandolfo, so that might be one of the reasons why Francis has decided not to go there. Castel Gandolfo is a beautiful place and I’d very much like to see the Pope taking his holidays out there, but the Holy Father is an old style Jesuit, he’s taken a vow of poverty and he takes it seriously. Most of the rest of us haven’t taken a vow of poverty but he has, and I think it is immensely to his credit that he lives it.
By his commitment to a simple life, marked by poverty, Pope Francis is setting a style of how to be a priest, how to be a bishop, how to be a pope. Do you think many bishops and priests will review their own style of life in the light of his example?
There’s no doubt about it, the style of papacy, the content of the teaching, the way the Pope lives, all this influences the life of the whole Church. I think the general direction which the Holy Father is going in is very good. He certainly doesn’t want the Vatican to be seen as a Renaissance court or even an 18th century court, but rather as a place where people are serious about serving Christ and serving the people. He’s certainly not into pomp and circumstance. So to answer your question, yes, I think his example and style of life will have an effect.
You are one of the eight cardinal advisors of Pope Francis. What are the two or three main reforms that you would really like to see done in the Vatican now?
Well I come from the English speaking world, where we are a non-imaginative, practical lot so rather than starting with a grand re-configuration of the Curia – which incidentally I think to some significant extent will happen, I think we should try to look at particular problems such as, for example, do we have enough typists in the Vatican? How many people with doctorates are spending their time typing? Now that’s only one small example of the practical problems that exist today.
In other words, there’s a lack of proper managerial organization in the Curia?
Yes, but that’s only one small example of the kind of thing I mean. Discipline and morale have to be improved in the Curia too. Now the leaks have stopped, and thank God for that! In some way or other the contents of the Report of the three cardinals has to be dealt with; it doesn’t have to be done with a blare of trumpets, but if there are significant things there then they have to be addressed. I very much anticipate the Holy Father will do that. Pope Francis is moving in on the Bank, the IOR (the Institute for the Works of Religion); I think some very significant progress has been made there, but probably much more needs to be done. I think the Vatican finances, and the allegations of misunderstandings and so on with Archbishop Vigano, have to be addressed and put in order. To be specific, annual external audits should be done here, as happens in all parts of the English-speaking world. Great strides have been made in the world of communications within the Vatican, but I still think there is enormous overlap, as well as lack of coordination, and possibly too much expenditure in some particular agencies. These are just some of the practical areas that we need to address.
One issue that several people have mentioned to me is the lack of a personnel policy in the Vatican: how do you choose people who are going to work in the Roman Curia or for the Holy See?
A mechanism has to exist in the Vatican to ensure and verify that all the people working in the Curia are capable and have the abilities that are appropriate for the particular positions. I’m not sure to what extent this exists already, but you might even finish up with a small committee of cardinals, with a small group servicing them, who would be able to present to the Holy Father ‘ternas’ (three names) for the senior roles in the Roman Curia, such as is now being done for dioceses. And, of course, if he wanted to go outside the ‘terna’ he would be able to do that too. I think this would ensure that you have faithful, believing, competent people for the various posts in the Curia. The best structures in the world can be damaged if you have square pegs in round holes.