Last week, three events somehow connected occurred in Vatican life. Yet, they seem entirely different events from each other. The first: Pope Francis continued in his process of renewing the Roman Curia and appointed the new Prefect of the Dicastery for Catholic Education and Culture as well as his secretary. The second: after a two-month pause, the trial in the Vatican, which sees Cardinal Angelo Becciu among the accused, has resumed but mainly concerns the investment of the Secretariat of State in a luxury building in London. The third: Pope Francis’ conversation with the Jesuits of the Russian region during the trip to Kazakhstan was published.

How are these three very different events connected? Because each of them says something about how the Pope handles matters, allowing us to understand what to expect.

Let’s start with the last development. The conversation with the Jesuits shows a Pope committed to vindicating his relentless commitment to Ukraine. But it also demonstrates the Pope’s obstinacy in looking only at one point of view without understanding its implications. There is only one concession, almost pro forma, to the protests that came to his statements: that it is about people who suffer.

The Pope emphasizes that he wanted to talk about both of the peoples suffering, but then everyone focused only on his reference to that poor girl blown up in the car. That poor girl was Darya Dugina.

The problem, however, was not in the prayer nor in the possible implications of her having fomented or supported a war in Ukraine. Instead, the problem lay in the way in which the Pope had outlined the situation. While there was an ongoing investigation, with a veritable information war on both sides, the Pope linked the attack to the war when it was unclear whether the attack was the work of Ukrainians or internal Russian opposition.

They are subtleties, one might say. But diplomacy is made up of subtleties. When the Pope speaks, it is never something neutral, so the Pope should take care of his words. The Pope, however, argues instead that we must look at the profound meaning of his words, giving them a religious connotation. However, if the words remain vague, how to define the intent properly?

In the same interview, the Pope also repeated another controversial expression, which concerns the barking of NATO at the gates of Ukraine before the war. There too, the Pope wanted to reiterate his position, regardless of the various criticisms about how he expressed himself. In practice, the Pope behaves like a priest but does not think about the institution he represents or speak about an institution. It can be a feature of him, and it can be beautiful. It doesn’t mean, however, that it doesn’t create problems.

While the Pope does not speak in an institutional way when he deals with diplomatic matters, he is not institutional even when he makes government decisions. The Vatican process that has just resumed was, from the very beginning, characterized by the decisive intervention of Pope Francis. The Pope intervened with four rescripts, changing the procedural rules and the rules so that even the cardinals could be tried by the ordinary court of the Vatican City State.

In this field, we is no longer a pastoral concern. Instead, there is a concern to communicate that the Pope decides and that the Pope also knows how to go against his very institutions if needed. Perhaps it is in this way, by being the first to set an example, even if this means putting aside history, tradition, and procedures, that the Pope wants to promote the pastoral conversion he speaks of.

Yet what comes out is a hybrid process. We know that the Pope’s will is to go forward, and we go forward, even when common sense would dictate to take a step back. Before starting the interrogation of witnesses, the President of the Tribunal, Giuseppe Pignatone, himself admitted that the defendants had been heard for a long time, accepting to questions that in other places would not have been admissible.

Pignatone has had to seek, in recent months, a balance between the mens papalis and the need to establish a fair trial. Is all this good for the Holy See? Does it help pastoral conversion? Or does it not instead become a process not to do justice but to attack a Vatican world?

The need to change at all costs can be seen in the reform of the Curia that has just been promulgated. On Monday, Cardinal Tolentino became the Prefect of the Catholic Education and Culture Dicastery. The secretary of the same dicastery is Bishop Paul Tighe, who for now remains in his place. However, Monsignor Cesare Pagazzi was also added as secretary. For the latter, there is no episcopal appointment on the way, faithful to the principle that it is not the episcopate but the canonical mission that gives authority.

Yet the decision not to appoint the secretary of the dicastery as a bishop creates an imbalance within the dicastery, where one secretary is a bishop, and the other is not. Of course, everything is left to the common sense of the people involved, but in fact – and once again – the Pope has decided not to look to the institutional side and not to care if an imbalance, even formal, is created.

They are three different pieces of news, yet they tell of the Pope’s linearity in deciding personally, regardless of the institutional and formal side of things. Yet this institutional and traditional side is significant. It gives a rule. It provides coherence. It gives transparency. The absence of this side will be one of the issues to be addressed when, one day, the pontificate will be studied.


2 Responses to Pope Francis, three connected themes, even if they do not seem to be so

  1. Simon Kuipers scrive:

    Paul Tighe resigned on 5 June 2022, and was never reappointed.

  2. [...] il pontificato.Questo articolo è stato pubblicato oggi dall’autore sul suo blog Monday Vatican [QUI].Foto di copertina: la conversazione privata di Papa Francesco con 19 gesuiti della Regione russa [...]

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