Pope, cardinal advisers discuss role of Vatican offices, laity

Pope Francis talks with Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, a member of the pope's Council of Cardinals, as they arrive for a meeting at the Vatican in 2015. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis talks with Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals, as they arrive for a meeting at the Vatican in 2015. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Junno Arocho Esteves
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis and members of the international Council of Cardinals advising him on church governance deliberated on defining the role of Secretariat of State and its relationship to other Vatican offices.

Meeting with Pope Francis Dec. 12-14, the Council of Cardinals worked on laying out clear objectives in the reform of several offices and congregations.

“Two fundamental themes emerged as the guidelines of the reform of the dicasteries: the missionary impulse and synodality,” said Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office.

Although St. John Paul II’s constitution “Pastor Bonus,” a 1988 reform of the curia, states that the secretariat was to “foster relations” with other curial offices and “coordinate their work,” Burke told journalists it was somewhat general. The new document on the current reform will be “much more clear and laid out regarding the Secretariat of State and its role in coordinating the Curia,” he said.

Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the new Vatican office for laity, family and life, also updated the pope and the council on upcoming projects for the dicastery.

The Vatican announced the same day that two new undersecretaries had been named by Pope Francis to the new dicastery, which is set to begin its work in January: Scalabrinian Father Fabio Baggio, 51, and Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, 60.

Father Baggio is a professor and the director of the Scalabrini International Migration Institute in Rome.

Born in the former Czechoslovakia and raised in Canada, Father Czerny has served as an official of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace since 2010.

His long career in the field of social justice includes having served as the Canadian director and executive director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network, which he founded, and spending two years in El Salvador to carry out the work of his confreres who were murdered during the civil war there.

The discussion between Cardinal Farrell and the council, Burke said, “centered on the role of the laity with an invitation to all to reread Pope Francis’ letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.”

In his March 19 letter, the pope warned the clergy of falling into the temptation of believing that committed laypeople are those only dedicated to the works of the church or matters of the parish without reflecting “on how to accompany baptized people in their public and daily life.”

The Council of Cardinals will meet again Feb. 13-15. Its members are: Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

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Contributing to this story was Carol Glatz at the Vatican.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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