Ahead of today’s meeting with his hand-picked group of eight cardinals, Pope Francis has given his strongest indication yet that he is planning to introduce sweeping reforms of the Roman Curia.
In an interview with prominent Italian atheist Eugenio Scalfari, published today by La Repubblica, the Pope said that the formation of the Council of Cardinals signalled “the beginning of a Church with an organisation that’s not only vertical but also horizontal”.
According to blogger Rocco Palmo, who has translated key parts of the 4,500-word interview into English, Pope Francis said that the “defect” of the Roman Curia is that it’s “Vatican-centric” and “cares for [its own] interests which are also, in large part, temporal interests”. He added that he “doesn’t share this vision and will do everything to change it”.
He continued: “The Church is, or must return to being, a community of the People of God, and the priests, pastors, bishops with the care of souls, are at the service of the People of God. This is the Church, a word that’s a different case from the Holy See, which has an important function but is at the service of the Church.”
Pope Francis also said his reforms “will also speak of the role of women in the Church,” adding that “the Church is feminine”.
Speaking of the Church’s role in the modern world, Pope Francis said: “Our objective isn’t proselytism but listening to [people’s] needs, desires, disappointments, desperations and hopes. We must restore hope to the young, aid the old, open ourselves to the future, spread love. [We must be] the poor among the poor.
“We must include the excluded and preach peace. Vatican II, inspired by Pope John and Paul VI, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to open [the Church] to modern culture. The Council Fathers knew that opening to modern culture meant religious ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers. After then very little was done in that direction. I have the humility and ambition to want to do it.”
In the interview, which the Pope arranged personally by calling Mr Scalfari out of the blue, Francis discussed a range of other issues including youth unemployment, the plight of the elderly and the Church’s relationship with the political world. It follows only 12 days after he gave a wide-ranging interview to a Jesuit priest.
Pope Francis will preside at three-day summit with the Council of Cardinals that begins today. Among the group of eight are Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, and Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa, and during the summit they will be advising Francis on ways to reform the “governance of the Universal Church”.
A full text (in English) of Pope Francis’s interview is available here.