Pope Francis’ recent interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa Dec. 15 addressed some of the more political issues in the Church, including reform of the curia and changes to the Vatican banking system.
When questioned about the council of eight cardinals Pope Francis appointed one month after his election to help and advise him in sketching out curia reform, the pontiff explained, “I am always present at the meetings, except for Wednesday mornings when I have the General Audience.”
“But I don’t speak, I just listen and that does me good.”
According to the Pope, the council of cardinals which met for a second round of meetings Dec. 3-5 after the first round that took place Oct. 1-3, has “a lot of work to do.”
“Those who wanted to make proposals or send ideas have done so. At the last meeting, the eight cardinals told me the time has come for concrete proposals and at the next meeting in February they will present their suggestions to me.”
The third round of meetings will be held Feb. 17-19, and will precede a wider meeting of cardinals in occasion of the consistory for the creation of new cardinals.
During the meetings, the cardinals clarified that they are not making “adjustments” to the Pastor Bonus, the constitution that regulates functions and duties of the Roman offices, but they are thinking about writing a brand new constitution.
In his interview, Pope Francis shared an anecdote that illustrated his approach to curial reform:
“A few months ago, an elderly cardinal said to me: ‘You have already started curia reform with your daily masses in St. Martha’s House.’ This made me think: reform always begins with spiritual and pastoral initiatives before structural changes.”
In a previous interview granted to “La Civiltà Cattolica,” Pope Francis underscored that “Ignatius is a mystic, not an ascetic. It irritates me when I hear that the Spiritual Exercises are ‘Ignatian’ only because they are done in silence. In fact, the Exercises can be perfectly Ignatian also in daily life and without the silence.”
This perhaps illustrates why Pope Francis is so fond of 16th century Jesuit priest Blessed Peter Faber’s thought – so much that he wanted him to be proclaimed a saint for “certain science,” that is, without the need of a miracle.
For Bl. Peter Faber, interior experience, dogmatic expression and structural reform are intimately inseparable. Thus, when questioned about the pastoral situation of Catholics who are divorced but living in a second union, the Pope also explained that “synodality of the Church is important,” and this is why “we will discuss marriage as a whole at the consistory meetings in February.
“The issues will also be addressed at the Extraordinary Synod in October 2014 and again at the Ordinary Synod the following year. Many elements will be examined in more detail and clarified during these sessions,” he added.
Pope Francis and the IOR
In addition to curial reform, Pope Francis was questioned about the Institute for Religious Works – the so-called Vatican bank, known by the Italian acronym of IOR.
The IOR reform is not part of the Curia reform, but deals with the wider reform of Vatican finances, and this is also a reason why Pope Francis appointed a commission for reference on the IOR and a commission for reference for the rationalization of the Vatican administrations.
More recently, Pope Francis appointed Msgr. Alfred Xuereb, his personal secretary, has his deputy for the commission of reference. According to the Pope, “the commissions for reference are making good progress.”
Pope Francis also refers to the progress report issued by the Council of Europe’s committee MONEYVAL, and he said that “we are on the right path.” The report dealt with the overall Holy See financial system, of which the IOR is just one part.
The pontiff stressed that the Vatican “central bank” is “meant to be the Administration for the Patrimony of the Holy See,” while the “IOR was established to help with works of religion, mission and the poor ones. Then it became what it is now.”
The IOR purpose, according to its statutes amended by Pope John Paul II in 1990, is “to provide for the custody and administration of goods transferred or entrusted to the Institute by physical or juridical persons, designated for religious works or charity. The Institute can accept deposits of assets from entities or persons of the Holy See and of the Vatican City State.”
Church and politics
Pope Francis also addressed the wider question of the relationship between Church and politics, which, according to him, needs to be “parallel and convergent at the same time.”
“Parallel because each of us has his or her own path to take and his or her different tasks. Convergent only in helping others.”
The pontiff said that “when relationships converge first, without the people, or without taking the people into account, that is when the bond with political power is formed, leading the Church to rot: business, compromises…The relationship needs to proceed in a parallel way, each with its own method, tasks and vocation, converging only in the common good.”
Pope Francis then reiterated that “politics is noble,” as he said several times in the morning mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, but “we sully it when we mix it with business. The relationship between the Church and political power can also be corrupted if common good is not the only converging point.”