13Apr Pope Francis selects cardinals to advise on church reform

Vatican City, 13 April 2013 (VIS) – Following is the full text of a communique issued on Saturday 13 April by the Secretariat of State.

“The Holy Father Francis, taking up a suggestion that emerged during the General Congregations preceding the Conclave, has established a group of cardinals to advise him in the government of the universal Church and to study a plan for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, ‘Pastor Bonus’.

The group consists of:

  •  Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State;
  •  Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, archbishop emeritus of Santiago de Chile, Chile;
  •  Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India;
  •  Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany;
  •  Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo;
  •  Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley O.F.M., archbishop of Boston, USA;
  •  Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia;
  •  Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in the role of coordinator;
  •  Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, in the role of secretary.

The group’s first meeting has been scheduled for 1-3 October 2013. His Holiness is, however, currently in contact with the aforementioned cardinals.”


John J Allen Jr of the NCR comments on the announcement:

In a signal that major reform may be on the horizon, the Vatican announced today that Pope Francis has formed a group of eight cardinals from around the world to “advise him on the government of the universal church” and “to study a project of revision” of a document from John Paul II on the Roman Curia.

At first blush, all these cardinals seem like strong personalities. Several have voiced criticisms over the years about various aspects of Vatican operations, while two, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, Germany, have played key roles in the church’s response to the child sexual abuse crisis.

The group’s first meeting is set for Oct. 1-3, and meanwhile, according to the Vatican statement, the pope will be in regular contact with the cardinals individually.

The brief item in the Vatican’s daily press bulletin did not explain how these cardinals were chosen, or how long they will serve in these roles.

Strikingly, there was only one member of the Roman Curia among the eight cardinals tapped to assist the pope. The rest come from various parts of the world, with at least one representing each continent.

The note said Pope Francis had assembled the group in keeping with a suggestion that emerged during the “General Congregation” meetings of cardinals in the run-up to the conclave that elected him to the papacy.

As it happens, today marks the one-month anniversary of Francis’ election. The document from John Paul II on the Roman Curia to be studied by this group is entitled Pastor Bonus, and was issued in 1988.

21 Responses

  1. Mary O Vallely

    All I can say is ‘Deo Gratias’ and I say it loudly and again and again! 🙂

  2. Ned Quinn

    Good news certainly. However, I know many priests, religious, and lay folk in Australia would not want George Pell to represent them.

  3. Mary O Vallely

    Yes, Ned @2. “I do not like thee Cardinal Pell, the reason why I cannot tell but this I know and know full well, I do not like thee Cardinal Pell.” (adapting the old nursery rhyme and of course we do have very good reasons for not trusting the man). His is the one name that sticks out but he is only one of 8 and the others, especially Cardinal O’Malley, will hopefully balance it out. There may be method in Pope Francis’ madness and it may be the Holy Spirit at work as Pell may yet learn something from the experience. We will never get the perfect combination but it is a start, a hopeful start, along the long road to reform. Time will tell but it is something about which to feel joyous, is it not?

  4. mjt

    Wasn`t George Pell the man who had such an important input to the infamous new translation of the Mass in English? If so, one wonders if news of its reception across the English-speaking world had not yet filtered back to the Pope? It can`t be that there is no-one else in that part of the world available to help him on this new body. So maybe it`s to relieve the faithful down under of his presence, if he`s to be kept busy in Rome.
    Or maybe Francis himself isn`t as concerned about the English-speaking Church and its sensitivities as we had hoped he might be.

  5. mjt

    Or maybe it`s that the Pope and the group can cope with one Pell from eight, whatever advice he has to give?

  6. Eddie Finnegan

    Francis’s first problem in rushing Pell-mell for a geographical spread of advisory talent is that said commodity is probably not evenly spread geographically. And his second problem in being bound to a scarlet advisory group is that of the four cardinals of Oceania two (Ozzies Cassidy and Clancy) are in their 89th and 90th year; one (Williams of NZ) is in his 84th or 85th year; and the appalling Pell, alas and alack, is in his 72nd.
    1. Why not give Oceania a skip and stick the pin in Tagle’s Manila?
    2. Why not misread Austr(al)ia and stick the pin in Schonborn’s Wien?
    3. Why not give a nod to both Maggie Thatcher and Christina Kirchner and let the women at it?
    Well, Francie, we’re just trying to help you.
    (And I take it, Mary’s enthusiastic Deo Gratias was just a typo vote of confidence in the man from Bombay/Mumbai ?)

  7. Ned Quinn

    Apropos Pell’s appointment. Maybe the Pope was thinking like Lyndon B Johnson. It’s better to have him in the tent ——- out than outside and ——- in!

  8. Joe O'Leary

    Why the focus on cardinals rather than heads of episcopal conferences? Pell has never been head of the Australian conference, for good reason! I’m not sure that this consultation circle is adequate to understand and change what’s wrong with the curia, nor do I see it as a major step towards collegiality.

  9. Association of Catholic Priests

    I’m afraid that on this occasion I find myself having to accept that Joe O’Leary’s negative assessment of Francis has got some real, hard evidence to support it. I find it hard to see much that is positive in this action. All cardinals. Their age. And Pell!! (I know O’Malley is there, and that is something.) But it is hard to be too sanguine about real Church reform if this is the group that are going to advise him.
    Tony Flannery

  10. Mark

    Although the group comprises only Cardinals, I cannot see that there is anything which prevents anyone else (clergy or lay) from inputting good ideas to them? – either by writing to an individual Cardinal or by writing to the group’s secretary? We have been told that the group will be reviewing the document ‘Pastor bonus’. I see that one part of this document deals with the CDF. Perhaps the ACP might input its views, regarding the CDF, to the group of Cardinals?
    Mark (O’Meara)

  11. Darlene Starrs

    It begs the question: Why did the Pope think, that this “kind of” advisory group was the way to begin reform? What information is he wanting to glean from an advisory group which is made up of all cardinals? It’s quite the puzzler, I mean, if I’m assuming that Pope Francis is wise, why is he beginning this way?

  12. Paddy Ferry

    I am familiar with only 4 of these cardinals and, like others, it is the sight of the “appalling Pell” in the list that jumps off the screen to cause me distress and unhappiness. He is the man who said, among other outrageous things, that the imposition — no, he did say introduction, of course — of the new liturgy was ” a model of collegiality ” Now, what can anyone say about that!!
    However, mention of the new liturgy brings me to what may be even bigger news than the new list of 8 cardinals. Robert Mickens, in this weeks Tablet, tells us that last week Francis met with Archbishop Piero Marini, who was the master of papal liturgical ceremonies until 2007.
    Two days later, Francis then met with Cardinal Antonio Canizares, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Mickens reports that there is speculation in Rome that Canizares is about to become the new Archbishop of Madrid and Piero Marini will replace him as head of Divine Worship. Now, everything I have read about Piero Marini leads me to believe that he would most definitely not agree with Ratzinger’s tampering with the liturgical renewal of Vat II. Cardinal Canizares always celebrates the old rite.
    Now, if all this is true, then we are definitely about to enter really interesting times.

  13. Padraig

    Why seek the living amongst the dead ?

    Five years ago when I thought to ‘return’ to Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church, this question was put to me quite powerfully. Remember it so very vividly. Never forgotten, a beautiful sunny day by a river, where it was all life. Light.

    I did return or tried to. But find the spiritual life I had, away from it all, being sucked right out again; and all this stuff, this whatever the hell it’s supposed to be – seeping in – poisoning a place and heart more full of life and light gained when far away from all of it.

    I seriously ask myself all day, and tonight, why I would seek the living amongst the dead.
    It’s just endlessly depressing, and robs all light, all hope and all spiritual life. It’s clearly something ‘dead’. The Emperor is naked. Time for me anyway to see and admit it – once and for all.

    That’s my conclusion for what it’s worth at this point.

  14. markdask

    Certainly George Pell is a bit of a public joke but if the Pope could cut through the Curia and get in contact with the actual church, just imagine – a people’s pope. I know my country, Ireland, is begging to be heard.


  15. Ray Kennedy

    Deo gratias, God acts in mysterious ways.

    He holds each one of us in his palm.

    Let us wait for Tuesday 1 October , DV

  16. DR.HENRY

    Dear Brothers in Christ, what you are now seeing in Rome, under Pope Francis’ leadership, is the beginning of restructuring the Catholic Church. Just as we are plagued with wild Biblical fundamentalism in the United States, we have been handed STRUCTURAL fundamentalism for several centuries.The dead hand of tradition has stifled the real work of the Holy Spirit. Go back to your church history books and read all about the deBorgias and the deMedicis However, let me warn the Vatican…..this structural change must be transferred to other countries and to every diocese as soon as possible, or we will lose our most gifted priests and laity. Enough said. God Bless all of the discouraged or even depressed priests and laity who have been cheated for at least five centuries.

  17. Paddy Ferry

    The feelings expressed by Padraig @13 above are shared by many who once were practising catholics, which is sad, and just as sad is the fact that many of us can truly empathise with them. Padraig describes the situation very well

  18. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh

    I have just read that these 8 Cardinals are to be a permanent group to bring reform. This group should be a temporary group, because many of them have bad histories on protecting predator priests and revictimizing victims of clergy sexual abuse.

    Even Pope Francis has not acted as Jesus would act in regard to the sexual abuse scandal. I read that Pope Francis protected one, and possibly two predator priests, and refused to meet with the victims of clergy sexual abuse when he was in Argentina.

    Several of the Cardinals that Pope Francis has chosen were on the blacklist of SNAP’s “dirty dozen” Cardinals before the conclave. So, it seems to be the same old, same old story of protecting the predators and the institution, and revictimizing the victims.

    In particular, Cardinal Pell has a bad reputation among victims of clergy sexual abuse. Also, I believe that Cardinal Pell is opposed to freedom of conscience, which was recognized as very important in the Second Vatican Council. I wish Pope Francis would pick someone else to represent that part of the world geographically in his group of 8 to represent the different regions of the world.

    For a short while I thought there was hope for the future of the RCC. Now I am not so sure, but I will keep hoping that something good will come of all of this.

    Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois, USA

  19. Eddie Finnegan

    Funny, we normally grant even the most venal and scoundrelly politicians a full 100-day honeymoon when they assume or grab office.
    Are we about to evict Francis from his unassuming honeymoon hotel after a mere 33 days? Same time as Albino Luciani got back in ’78, I suppose.
    So come along, folks, hitch your hobby horse to our brand new “get Francis” bandwagon and join our hue and cry: “Frankie, Frankie, Frankie – Out! Out! Out!”

  20. Eddie Finnegan

    Glad to see that Robert Mickens’ Tablet article, “Francis’ reform club” (20 April) is much more positive about Francis’ G8 than we have managed to be. Five of the eight are, or have been, heads of their national Bishops’ Conferences, while Pasinya has also headed SECAM (Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa & Madagascar), both Rodriguez Maradiaga and Errázuriz Ossa have headed CELAM, and Marx is president of the commission of EU episcopates. As Joe says (8), Oz bishops never elected Pell to anything but he’s had several papal appointments including Vox Clara. While he’d be keen on taking the Curia apart at the seams, God know how he’d like to put it together again.

  21. Paddy Ferry


    This piece contains an interview with Archbishop Piero Marini whom I mentioned @12 above. This man could well be somebody to watch in Francis’ new Rome — or, at least, that is what I am hoping.

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