The church is growing and counts most of the world’s Catholics in the southern hemisphere, while it’s shrinking in Europe. Yet the Vatican and the 200-strong College of Cardinals, traditionally the pope’s primary advisers, remain heavily European.
Lombardi said the fact that Francis selected cardinals from every continent indicated he wanted to reflect the universal nature of the church in Vatican decision-making.
“The Roman Curia retains all its fundamental functions helping the pope in the daily governance of the universal church,” Lombardi told Vatican Radio. “The naming of this group adds to this, in a certain sense integrates it, with a universal point of view and voices from different parts of the world.”
The members of the panel include Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Vatican city state administration — a key position that oversees, among other things, the Vatican’s profit-making museums. The non-Vatican officials include Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, the retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo; Sean Patrick O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston; George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia; and Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who will serve as coordinator.
Monsignor Marcello Semeraro, bishop of Albano, Italy will be the panel secretary.
O’Malley, a Capuchin friar, has spent his career cleaning up churches from sexually abusive priests. Pell was outspoken in the run-up to the conclave about the need for reform in the bureaucracy. Maradiaga heads the church’s Caritas International charity federation and is a rare moderate in the College of Cardinals who hasn’t shied from criticizing the failings of the curia.
In theory, all popes have cardinals at their disposal to serve as advisers; advising the pope is a cardinal’s main job aside from voting in conclaves. But neither John Paul nor Benedict made frequent use of their cardinal advisers, in part because they were so far away and numbered more than 200.
With such a small group of men hand-picked by the pope to specifically advise him in running the church and reforming the Vatican, it appears Francis wants a more collegial type of governance for his papacy. That also would meld with his reluctance to call himself pope in favor of his other main title, bishop of Rome.
Some cardinals said they wanted term limits on Vatican jobs to prevent priests from becoming career bureaucrats. They wanted consolidated financial reports to remove the cloak of secrecy from the Vatican’s murky finances. And they wanted regular Cabinet meetings where department heads actually talk to one another to make the Vatican a help to the church’s evangelizing mission, not a hindrance.
They also said they wanted the Vatican to serve the bishops in the field, and not the other way around.
“It just doesn’t work either very quickly or very efficiently,” U.S. Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, said in an interview soon after Francis was elected. “Take marriage cases: People shouldn’t have to be asked to wait three, four, five, six years to get a response” for a request for an annulment.
Aside from Saturday’s announcement, Francis has made one Vatican appointment so far, naming a member of his namesake Franciscan order to the important No. 2 spot at the Vatican’s congregation for religious orders.
His most eagerly-watched appointment has yet to come: that of the Vatican secretary of state, who runs the day-to-day administration of the Holy See. Currently, the position is held by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a 78-year-old canon lawyer whose administrative shortcomings have been blamed for many of the Vatican’s current problems today.