A message for those who are still in doubt: the reform of Rome’s Curia is a fact. It’s an irreversible process that was launched in 2013 with the establishment of the College of Cardinals, the so-called C9, perhaps even before then with Benedict XVI’s renunciation and the ensuing Conclave that led to the election of Pope Francis. It’s a well-marked trail followed with the rightful pace of discernment that is very dear to Bergoglio. Some elements can be easily drawn from the C9 meetings held since 2013: as many as 15 – the latest one past June, while the next 2 have already been tabled (September 12-14, December 12-14) – each session has lasted three days, with 7-hours work each,
amounting to a total of 45 days and 315 hours of work, to which must be added the Concistory of February 2015, dedicated precisely to the theme of the reform; various consultations – with the heads of the Dycasteries as well as with experts external to the Curia of Rome; in addition to over 100 written contributions submitted to the attention of the C9.
These elements show that it is “proceeding” in a choral – namely Synodal, – way, stepping up “synergies in all areas of the mission” of the Church, as explained by Pope Francis in his speech for the 50th anniversary of the Synod.
The reform process thus moves ahead … not as an addition to what already exists. On the contrary! In fact, a different mode of thought – and action – is being ushered in. The new Secretariats (for Communication and for the Economy) and the new Dycasteries (for the Laity, for the Family and Life and for promoting the Integral Development of the Human Person) have replaced – or are scheduled to replace in the coming months – a series of Pontifical Councils. “If it were a mere addition there would be no need for a reform – pointed out Monsignor Marcello Semeraro, Secretary of the C9. Instead, it consists in a ‘deliberation aimed at reorganizing and streamlining the Curia, with the assumption that some of the incorporations will ensure greater relevance, – at internal and external level alike – thereby providing greater guidance. However, the reform of the Curia could include the creation of an additional number of Dycasteries, should circumstances so require. The primary objective is to reflect the redeeming mission of the Church.”
This explains the names of the new Dycasteries: for Laity, Family and Life and for promoting the Integral Development of the Human Person. Both, with their specific competences, define closely connected dimensions: Laity, Family and Life …a constant and natural reminder! The same can be said for integral human development, Semeraro said, which highlights “a specific horizon for action, inspired by three documents: Populorum progressio by Paul VI, for the teaching on development, Caritas in veritate by Benedict XVI, for its human dimension, and Laudato si’ ,for its emphasis on solidarity and integral ecology. The new structure is clearly rooted in the Church’s Social Magisterium, as the Pope writes in the Motu Proprio that instituted it.” Nor is it surprising that the Dycastery’s department for migrants and itinerant people has been placed, “ad tempus”, under Francis’ guidance. In fact, this decision highlights, yet again, the importance ascribed to what is considered a topically relevant global emergency. The fact that the Pope has assumed the guidance of this area in first person stands as an example for everyone, believers and non-believers alike! Moreover, the expression “ad tempus” can also be read as the expectation that this emergency will be solved without further delay. Indeed, there has been no step backwards on the part of the Church. In fact, the opposite is true, as demonstrated by the Pope every day.
But the scepticism and doubts of some lead them to reiterate the same question:
Was this reconsideration truly necessary?
An answer can be found in a passage from the apostolic Letter Humanam progressionem issued “Motu Proprio” instituting the Dycastery for promoting Integral Human Development. Pope Francis writes:
“The Successor of the Apostle Peter, in his work of affirming these values, is continuously adapting the institutions which collaborate with him, so that they may better meet the needs of the men and women whom they are called to serve.”
There is a strong theological reference to the thought of Paul VI (evident also in the use of the term “progressionem”, a reference to “Populorum progressio”). As a matter of fact, in the past with Pope Montini just as today with Pope Francis, the reform should be understood as a form of reorganization, upgrading, and adjustment to the needs of our times. “This is done also through a rewriting of ecclesiological criteria – pointed out the Secretary of the C9 –. “Let is suffice to consider the priority of evangelization as it is presented in Evangelii gaudium along with the theme of synodality. In any case, it doesn no consist in the recovery of an ideal, original situation – which in the case of Rome’s Curia would be hard to identify.”
Ultimately, Rome’s Curia is not a never-changing monolith
The historical events of the past century – from Pius X, (1908) to Paul VI (1967), from John Paul II (1988) to Benedict XVI, who equally introduced some changes and novelties – testify to the fact that it is far from being an immutable apparatus. “Rome’s Curia – clearly outlined Monsignor Semeraro – is not an autonomous entity but an instrument in support of Peter’s Successor: it is significant if it is exclusively connected to him.” The ongoing reorganization fully reflects Francis’ authorship, so that, as he writes in the Motu Proprio Sedula Mater, the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia may ‘conform to the situations of our time and adapt to the needs of the universal Church.’ The reform underway consists in constantly adapting them to such situations and needs.”
The message is clear: it is an unrestrainable process that will continue with the Congregations, mindful of the fact that it is not a question of additions or subtractions but a reflection to rethink the Church.