Pope will succeed in reforming Roman Curia, cardinal expects

Pope Francis greets Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone during his farewell ceremony at the Vatican, Oct. 15, 2013. Credit: ANSA/OSSERVATORE ROMANO.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has discussed the reform of the Roman Curia being carried out by Pope Francis, saying he trusts that it will be completed effectively.

“It is a difficult journey, but I believe that Pope Francis is a man of decision, and so I believe he will succeed,” Cardinal Bertone, emeritus secretary of state, told CNA March 7.

He served as the Vatican’s secretary of state under Benedict XVI from 2006, and briefly resumed as Pope Francis’ secretary of state until his retirement Oct. 15, 2013.

A longtime collaborator of Benedict, he had also served as secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for seven years while Ratzinger was its prefect.

While he was head of the congregation, Ratzinger perfected a collegial method which he had taken directly from the Second Vatican Council and which he also applied as Pope, according to Cardinal Bertone.

“Benedict is the last Pope who directly participated in the Second Vatican Council, so I would say that he has drunk the spirit of collegiality that was proper to the Council, and wanted to bring -- and brought -- this spirit of collegiality to the Roman Curia, even to the governance of the universal Church.”

“Let us remember, also,” Cardinal Bertone continued, “that Francis wishes to focus on collegiality: in this there is a connection, a continuity, a perfect continuity, between the two Popes.”

As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger’s method was one “of participation, a method of involvement, and this is how he wanted the other departments to work,” according to Cardinal Bertone.

“He focused heavily on unity, on the collaboration of all the departments toward shared objectives; that they wouldn’t work in watertight compartments. It is a difficult job, this.”

Cardinal Bertone then added, “Pope Francis is thinking of reforming the Curia, of reducing the ministries. Certainly the departments have grown ... think of every Pope, think of the departments created by John Paul II ... but even Pope Benedict created a department specifically in relation to that for which Pope Francis has called -- going out of the Church into the peripheries: the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.”

Benedict XVI also “tried to unify the activities of the ministries; with some difficulty, as we know, because every department has its mission, its purpose,” he reflected.

“Each department wants to offer its goals in the documents that will remain in history, and this increases the variety of documents, and increases the difficulty of the reception of the documents of the Holy See, in the central government of the Church.”

“These are problems that Pope Benedict dealt with, and Pope Francis is trying to deal with.”

According to Cardinal Bertone, Pope Francis is treading the path of collegiality as well.

“In one of his first acts, Pope Francis created the council of eight cardinals to support him. In the end, just as in every department the ultimate decision rests with the prefect, in the universal Church the ultimate decision rests with the Pope and falls on his shoulders. But he shares, he is supported in his decisions, by the assistance of the cardinals.”

While these problems must weigh on him, Cardinal Bertone believes that Pope Francis will succeed in achieving a reform, even if “it is a long job, a job that requires thought, requires comparison, requires consultation.”

Editor's Note: This is the last of three articles to be published featuring material from CNA's March 7 interview with Cardinal Bertone. To read the first two installments, please click here and here.


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