VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis met for the third time in late February with his international Council of Cardinals, an eight-member group advising him on the reform of the Vatican bureaucracy and other issues.
The Feb. 17-19 meetings focused on financial and bureaucratic matters even as the council was rumored to be working on a draft of an apostolic constitution that would reorganize the church’s central administration, the Roman Curia.
Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Feb. 19 that the council members had followed up their discussions earlier in the week by giving the pope a set of recommendations regarding Vatican financial management and the future of the so-called Vatican bank. He did not provide any detail on the content of those recommendations.
Fr. Lombardi also announced that the pope would meet with the council again April 28-30 and July 1-4, maintaining a pattern of gathering roughly every two months.
The eight cardinals joined Pope Francis on the first morning for Mass in his residence, when he preached on the subject of patience.
Spoiled children and the haughty want everything immediately, the pope said. The Gospels even recount stories of people demanding Jesus perform miracles to prove that God is with him.
“They confuse God’s way of acting with that of a sorcerer,” the pope said at the Feb. 17 Mass. “But God does not behave like a sorcerer, God has his own way of proceeding.”
“Christians must live their lives in time with the music of patience,” the pope said, “because it is the music of our fathers, of the people of God, of those who believed in his word, who followed the commandment that the Lord gave to our father Abraham: ‘Walk before me and be blameless.'”
Fr. Lombardi was asked about rumors that the council could have a draft of a Curia reorganization plan ready as early as May. “I have the impression that this is a work that is going forward intensely,” he replied, but it does not seem to be on the verge of finishing.
Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa told the French newspaper La Croix that the council was considering putting a married couple at the head of the Pontifical Council for the Family and he repeated the idea that the reformed Curia could have a Congregation for the Laity rather than the lower-ranked pontifical council.
Fr. Lombardi said his impression was that those ideas were being discussed, but that nothing had been proposed formally yet.
When the council met in December, it began an overview of Vatican offices by focusing on the existing congregations, he said. The fact that the cardinals have not even started reviewing the pontifical councils seems to indicate they have a way to go before coming up with a comprehensive plan.
In reviewing the Vatican bureaucracy and the governance of the universal church, the pope and the cardinals began Feb. 17 with a discussion of the Vatican’s financial operations, meeting in the morning with three members of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See. The commission is investigating accounting practices in Vatican offices to devise strategies for greater fiscal responsibility and transparency.
The second day of the pope’s meeting with the council also was dedicated to financial matters, but looking more specifically at the activities and mission of the so-called Vatican bank. The morning meeting included a discussion with four of the five members of a commission the pope established in June to look at the Institute for the Works of Religion, the bank’s formal title. Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard law professor, was not in Rome, so did not participate in the meeting, Fr. Lombardi said.
The commission gave the cardinals a “full report,” Fr. Lombardi said, and the cardinals responded with many questions. The focus, the spokesman said, is not on the internal workings or even some of the recent scandals involving the Vatican bank, but on whether and how it serves the mission of the church.
The final day of the pope’s meeting with his cardinal-councilors was to include a conversation with the 15-member Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See, which oversees budget making for the Holy See and Vatican City State.
Looking at the administrative and economic institutions of the Holy See, Fr. Lombardi said, the pope and cardinals are trying to put every office into context and understand how they could work together better for the good of the church.
Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, participated in all of the meetings of the Council of Cardinals, Fr. Lombardi said, and although he has not formally been named a member of the council, he was participating on an equal footing as the cardinals.
In addition to Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, the other members of the council are: Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; George Pell of Sydney; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.