Here are the portraits of the cardinals, bishops, priests and one woman – Francesca Immacolata Chaoqui –whom the Pope talks and listens to.
One of the most frequently asked questions behind the Vatican walls (and a bit beyond) is who Francis has regular contact with.
Who advises him?
Who does he listen to?
One of these figures is Mgr. Fabiàn Pedacchio Leaniz, an official of the Congregation of Bishops and unofficial but highly efficient private secretary to the Pope, a bit like – mutatis mutandis of course – what Stanislao Dziwisz was to John Paul II.
But after a fair number of consultations, the names of quite a few other individuals begin to emerge; some of them come as surprises.
One name which is not surprising, however, is that of Cláudio Hummes, a Brazilian cardinal who was formerly Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and said to be one of Bergoglio’s “big voters”.
He successfully campaigned for Francis’ election in the last Conclave and was by his side when Francis appeared on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, when the new Pope was presented to the world.
Then there is the over 80-year-old British cardinal Murphy O’Connor, who plays less of a centre-stage role. He certainly did not see eye to eye with Benedict XVI when it came to bishop-related issues but under Francis’ pontificate he seems to have gained in importance and Francis consults him often.
The Nuncio to Great Britain seems to be conscious of this “hotline” to the Pope and the two apparently speak more regularly than before.
Then there is Honduran cardinal Oscar Madariaga, a member of the Salesian Order. There is a chance he could be appointed as head of one of the Congregations and move to Rome at the ripe age of 73. Then again, the Pope is 77.
Curia members say he is a key advisor to Pope Francis as is the 80-year-old Chilean cardinal, Errazuriz Ossa. Cardinal Ossa is a member of the official eight-member Council that meets with the Pope to discuss Curia and Church reform.
But there are also some Italians who form part of Pope Francis’ “secret Council”, if one may call it this.
One of them is Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the Governor of Vatican City. Cardinal Bertello served as Nuncio to Italy before being made Governor, thinking – as the Secretary of State had hinted – that he would be appointed head of the Congregation for Bishops and hoping he would get to lead the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples (Propaganda Fide).
He never got the latter position because Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who currently leads the Congregation, acted with greater skill and determination.
Other Italians that collaborate closely with Pope Francis include Carlo Maria Viganò, Nuncio to the United States – and averse to anything that so much as whiffs of Ratzinger or Bertone – and the former Master of Ceremonies, Mgr. Piero Marini who some believe played a role in the replacements discussed by the consultants to the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Finally, another cardinal whose advice is taken very seriously – and one can understand why when one takes a look at his resumé – is Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru, a Spanish bishop who taught at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, a canonist of the Apostolic Penitentiary and coordinator of the commission that oversees the Vatican bank (IOR).
But there is also a female who has gone to St. Martha’s House on a number of occasions – including recently –to meet with the Pope and introduce him to various people.
The woman in question is Francesca Immacolata Chaoqui. Chaoqui made headlines – not all good ones – about a week ago when she was nominated as a member of the commission set up in July to overhaul the Vatican’s financial administration.
Bergoglio has apparently met with her in a friendly capacity on a number of occasions.
Then there is the telephone which Pope Francis uses unreservedly. Naturally, the secrecy surrounding this is far greater.