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Pope Francis appoints panel to study overhaul of the Vatican

April 13, 2013|By Tom Kington
  • Appointed to the Curia reform task force by Pope Francis were, top row, from left, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya and Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley. Bottom row, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, Cardinal George Pell, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga and Cardinal Oswald Gracias.
Appointed to the Curia reform task force by Pope Francis were, top row, from… (Associated Press )

ROME -- Pope Francis launched a long-awaited cleanup of the Vatican by announcing a task force Saturday made up of eight high-ranking cardinals, including one American, who will determine how best to reform the much-criticized Curia, or Vatican administration.

The new panel, comprising senior prelates from five continents, will meet for the first time in early October. Only one serving Vatican official has been named to the body.

The Vatican’s sluggish and dysfunctional bureaucracy has been blamed for a number of gaffes that plagued the papacy of Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who announced his resignation as head of the Roman Catholic Church in February. Infighting and power struggles inside the Curia were exposed by private papal letters leaked by Benedict’s butler.

In meetings held before they chose Francis as the new pontiff last month, many cardinals reportedly called for a shakeup of the Vatican, complaining that they felt the Curia was unresponsive and out of touch with its far-flung bishops and cardinals.

In a statement Saturday announcing the new task force, the Vatican said that Francis, “taking up a suggestion that emerged during the course of the general congregations before the conclave, has formed a group of cardinals to ... study a project for the revision of the Roman Curia Apostolic Constitution," the Vatican's governing document.

The sole Vatican official on the panel is Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Vatican city-state administration. The others are outsiders drawn from around the world, including Sean Patrick O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston; Francisco Javier Errázuriz 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; George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia; and Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
 
In addition to the pope's initiative, which could result in sweeping administrative changes, Vatican watchers are eagerly awaiting Francis' appointment of a new secretary of state to replace Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who has been heavily criticized for building a power base at the Vatican by appointing supporters to key posts. Bertone’s influence was increased by Benedict’s decision to leave day-to-day management of the Vatican in his hands.

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