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On April 13, the news was published that Pope Francis had constituted a group of eight Cardinals to advise him in the governance of the universal Church and to study a project to revise the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, Pastor bonus. The decision has aroused much interest, resulting in many speculations. This matter was addressed in an interview with our newspaper by Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Substitute of the Secretariat of State.
OR: On the reform of the Roman Curia many topics have been bandied about: a balance of powers, moderators, coordinators, “superministers of the economy”, revolutions …
Archbishop Becciu: In fact, it’s a bit strange: the Pope hasn’t even met yet with the group of advisors that he chose, and already the advice has been raining down. After speaking with the Holy Father, I can say that at this time it is absolutely premature to make any assumptions about the future set-up of the Curia. Pope Francis is listening to everyone, but above all he wants to hear from those he has chosen as his advisors. Then he will set up a reform project of Pastor bonus, which of course will have to take its course.
OR: There has been much talk of the IOR, the Institute for Works of Religion [commonly known as ‘the Vatican bank’, -ed.]; someone has gone so far as to predict its suppression.
Archbishop Becciu: The Pope has been surprised to see phrases attributed to him that he never pronounced and which misrepresent his thoughts. The only hint he made on this issue was during a brief Homily in the church of Santa Marta, made off the cuff, in which he passionately recalled how the essence of the Church consists in a story of love between God and men, and how various human structures, including the IOR, are less important. The reference was a joke, made as a nod to and motivated by the presence at the Mass of some employees of the Institute, in the context of a serious invitation to never lose sight of the essential nature of the Church.
OR: Should we not expect then an imminent restructuring of the current configuration of the dicasteries?
Archbishop Becciu: I couldn’t predict the timing. However, the Pope asked us all, heads of the dicasteries, to continue in our service, without, however, wanting to proceed, for the moment, to confirm any of the assignments. The same goes for members of Congregations and of the Pontifical Councils: the normal cycle of nominations or confirmations that occurs at the end of the five-year mandates, has been suspended for the time being, and everyone is continuing in office “until the new provision” (donec aliter provideatur). This indicates the Holy Father’s desire to take the time needed for reflection — and prayer, we should not forget — to get a detailed picture of the situation.
OR: About the group of advisors, someone has gone so far as to affirm that such a choice could even put into question the primacy of the Pope.
Archbishop Becciu: It’s a consultative body, non-decision-making, and I really do not see how the Pope Francis’ choice could call into question the primacy. It is true that it is a gesture of great significance, which would give a clear signal about the ways in which the Holy Father wishes to exercise his ministry. We must not forget what is the prime task assigned to the group of eight cardinals: to assist the Pope in the governance of the universal Church. I wouldn’t want the curiosity regarding the set-up and structures of the Roman Curia to overshadow the profound meaning of the gesture made by Pope Francis.
OR: But isn’t the expression “to advise” a bit too undefined?
Archbishop Becciu: On the contrary, advising is an important action, which has a theological definition and finds expression on many levels in the Church. Consider, for example, the dioceses’ and parishes’ participatory boards, or the councils of superiors, provincials and generals, in the institutes of consecrated life. The function of counsel must be interpreted in a theological key: from a wordly perspective we could say that a powerless deliberative council is irrelevant, but that would be to equate the Church to a company. However, theologically the counsel has an important function: to assist the superior in the work of discernment, in understanding, that is, what the Spirit is asking of the Church in a precise historical moment. Without this reference, moreover, we wouldn’t understand anything, not even the authentic meaning of the action of governing the Church.
OR: How does it feel to collaborate with Pope Francis?
Archbishop Becciu: I’ve had the chance to collaborate closely with Pope Benedict, now I’m continuing my service with Pope Francis. Of course everyone has their own personality, their own style, and I feel really privileged to have this close contact with two men entirely devoted to the good of the whole Church, detached from themselves, immersed in God and with a single passion: to make the beauty of the Gospel known to the men and women of today.[Translation by ZENIT]