According to Vatican rumors, Statutes of the new Vatican dicastery “Charity, Justice and Peace” are to be published September 1. The newest dicastery will replace the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Pontifical Council for Migrants, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and the Pontifical Council for Health Workers. All of the competences of these dicasteries will merge into this single dicastery.

This is the second step of the reform of the Roman Curia after the establishment – already announced with statutes – of the dicastery “Family, Laity and Life.” It is yet to be defined how these two new dicasteries will be juridically shaped. However, the rationale for “Charity, Justice and Peace” is seemingly that of a dicastery with integrated and intersecting competences. This means that the departments – or secretariats – into which the dicastery will be organized do not have a fixed line of competences.

According to those who have worked in drafting the statutes, the reason is the inner nature of the dicastery itself. In general, the new dicastery will engage the whole of Catholic Social Teaching whose themes were previously divided. The truth is that – rather than working together – dicasteries in the past often overlapped in their competences. The outcome was that they often stepped on one another’s feet.

For instance, it could happen that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace was called upon to draft the Holy See’s international agenda on migrants. The same pontifical council could be a point of reference as well when the Holy See presented to international agencies the numbers involved in the Church’s commitment to migrants – even in terms of healthcare – when the Pontifical Council for Health Workers could more easily provide these figures. A coordination often missed. Now, it is hoped the new dicastery will provide it.

The real issue is that coordination in the past came from the way people worked, rather than from the structure. Over the course of time, Vatican dicasteries have progressively been attacked by the media as they took some strong positions, as that on the reform of the world financial system which the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace presented in 2011.

Under Pope Benedict XVI the process was one of collegiality, as Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, then Secretary of State, put it in a meeting with the heads of Vatican dicasteries on January 28, 2012. Everyone was involved in reviewing curial texts, starting from the Secretariat of State, so that every document or decision was the outcome of a wide-open and collegial consultation. The energies were focused on a shared effort. This rationale can work in an environment keen to cooperate and to pull in the same direction. However, Benedict’s pontificate had many snakes within, which resulted in the first Vatileaks trial. Perhaps, much of this will be explained in the book-interview the Pope Emeritus will publish with Peter Seewald this coming October.

Under Pope Francis, the approach to collegiality did not result in a real collegiality in governing the Church. Pope Francis listens to everyone, but then he makes all the decisions by himself. The “pastoral of the ears” which the Pope often talks about is also reflected in the Pope’s continual establishment of commissions to understand the issues at stake. The Pope never takes a position when listening to proposals or questions. He takes his time to reflect. Then, he makes his move, after consulting with his inner circle which is completely outside of the Curia machine.

Pushed to this from the requests of the pre-conclave cardinals’ meetings, Pope Francis has thus been called to think about a series of suggestions, and then to clash inevitably with the wall. In this case, the wall was represented by the discussion about reforms, continually ongoing and based on dicasteries’ checks and balances rather than on a common vision, also known as “theological issues.” At the same time there has been a hidden Vatican that kept working and providing continuity in the Holy See’s management that would have otherwise failed.

Starting from September, then, phase two of the Holy See’s reforms is up to take place. It will be a long workshop. Always according to rumors, statutes for the dicastery on “Charity, Justice and Peace” will go into effect on January 1, 2017. It is the sign of a long transition that will have to respond to the need to cut 20 percent of the staff among the four dicasteries to be merged. Many of these people will retire as they have reached the retirement age.

The new dicastery would be shaped with a general coordinator that will be a sort of pivot point. At the very beginning, the coordinator to be appointed should be Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, a Scalabrinian who served for ten years as the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN Office in Geneva. After his retirement, he was appointed member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. However, he was discreetly given the post of “delegate secretary”, a provisional post that was going to fill the vacuum left by the absence of the pontifical council’s secretary, Bishop Mario Toso, an expert in the Social Teaching of the Church who chose not to go on with a Vatican career and was appointed bishop of the small Italian diocese of Faenza-Modigliana.

The president of the new dicastery should be Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson. The pick is taken for granted, as the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is the only top rank not at retirement ages among the four dicasteries involved in the reform.

Archbishop Zimowski, President of the Pontifical Council for the Health Workers, recently passed away; Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants, is 77 and ready to retire – there is also Pope Francis’s rescript that encourages prelates to leave their post when they reach 75; the Pontifical Council Cor Unum is without a president since Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Robert Sarah as Prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments.

As far as the dicastery “Family, Laity and Life” is concerned, the games seem to be open, though choices have reportedly already been made in Santa Marta. According to the rumors, the prefect of the new dicastery might be Cardinal Oranì Tempesta, Archbishop of Rio de Jaineiro. Among Vatican insiders, some maintain that the appointment of a second top-ranking Brazilian Cardinal in the Curia would give leave to Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz to return to Brazil, leaving vacant the post of Prefect of the Institutions of Consecrated life. However, Pope Francis has already proven he does not care about these geopolitical balances, and he mostly looks at the notion of a more “internationalized” Curia, and above all a Curia that fits to his vision of a Church that is outward bound.

Where will Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia go then? He is the current President of the Pontifical Council for the Family. One possible destination for him might be Archpriest of Saint Mary Major Basilica, to replace Cardinal Santos y Avril, who has almost turned 80.

In that post, Paglia could turn the Basilica into a center for hosting a series of international initiatives sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community, to which Paglia belongs. The Pope would probably be very sympathetic with these initiatives, as he always more rely on Sant’Egidio for humanitarian and diplomatic initiatives.

It was also thank to the Sant’Egidio founder Andrea Riccardi that Pope Francis accepted the Charlemagne Prize. Sant’Egidio also helped to develop relations between the Pope and the European Parliament’s President Martin Schulz, as well as with Cardinal Reinhard Marx – both of whom are often guests of Sant’Egidio initiatives.

Even the initiative of humanitarian corridors for refugees comes from Sant’Egidio, and Pope Francis made the initiative his own by carrying on the papal plane a group of immigrants during the trip back from his visit to Lesbos. The Grand Imam al Tayed of the prestigious Sunni Islam institution al Azhar participated in a conference sponsored by Sant’Egidio in Paris right after the private meeting he had with Pope Francis on May 23, a meeting that closed a long period of broken relations between the Vatican and al Azhar. As always, Sant’Egidio took over the meeting of religions leaders for peace and made its own the formula of the “spirit of Assisi,” which Pope Benedict XVI sidelined a bit.

The meeting of prayer among all religions convened in Assisi by St. John Paul II in 1986 was replicated by Sant’Egidio every year in different places. The meeting took place again in Assisi in 1993 and 2002, when St. John Paul II took part in them and called all religions to a shared commitment for peace. And the meeting took place again in Assisi in 2011, under Pope Benedict XVI, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the initiative.

Now, there will be another meeting in Assisi to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Assisi gathering, and Sant’Egidio is among the main sponsors of the event together with the Franciscan Fathers in Assisi. It is probable that Pope Francis will take part in the meeting. According to the imam of Perugia – who was able to greet the Pope briefly in Assisi on Aug. 4 – the Pope will take part in the meeting this coming September 19.

This Vatican has not yet confirmed the Pope’s visit, but if confirmed, it will arouse interest because Pope Francis had formally cancelled all trips within Italy during the year of mercy. For this reason he will not participate in the National Eucharistic Congress to be held in Genoa on September 16-18. He is thus the first Pope not to take part in a National Eucharistic Congress in Italy after the Second Vatican Council.

Sant’Egidio’s impact on the Pope’s decision could result in a less marginal role for St. Mary Major Basilica, if Archbishop Paglia will be appointed the archpriest.

However, everything needs confirmation, and summer rumors do not always turn into reality. In fact, only a few people know what Pope Francis is thinking and which choice he will make in the future.

Even if the Curia’s geography is being redesigned, everyone is aware that curial organization is not a core issue for the Pope. He is more focused on the new profile for bishops, as his choices for new bishops prove. Not by chance, the meetings of the Council of Cardinals – the body Pope Francis appointed to advise him on curial reform and government of the Church – recently focused on the selection of bishops, and already Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy, introduced in the priestly formation program new items based on Pope Francis’s exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

In order to understand how Francis thinks the Church of the future must be shaped, we have to wait for the next consistory, which might take place next February. Who knows if the Pope will make some surprise choice, say an unexpected red hat for a small diocese in central Italy he loves to visit.


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