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Papal Commission Briefs Cardinals on Proposed Vatican Downsizing

Pope Francis’ reform of the Vatican departments, one of the priorities of his pontificate, seems to be nearing completion. The 165 Cardinals in Rome for meetings with Francis were briefed Thursday on a proposal to shrink the Vatican Curia, merging several existing departments into just two.

The commission of the nine cardinals assisting the Pope in Curial reform, the so-called C9, laid out their proposal Thursday morning, suggesting that two new departments absorb at least six current pontifical councils. One would encompass the laity, family, and life, and the other charity, justice, and peace.

Pope Francis told the cardinals that the reform is “not an end in itself,” but a means “to offer a strong Christian witness, to cause a more effective evangelization, to promote a more fruitful ecumenical spirit and to encourage a more constructive dialog.”

During a briefing in the Holy See press office, the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, reported on the course of the meetings and suggested that the proposed reforms would not become effective during 2015.

The proposal included the possibility that the secretaries of the various Vatican departments need not be bishops in the future. Not having secretaries with episcopal dignity, in addition to reducing the number of the bishops of the Roman Curia, could be a good antidote to careerism.

Father Lombardi noted that some speakers stressed that “the Roman Curia is not the only organization that helps the Pope in the government of the Church, but also the College of Cardinals, the consistory and the synod of bishops, and we must find ways to take better advantage of these different realities.”

On Friday, the cardinals will hear a report from the prefect of the Secretariat of Economy, the Australian Cardinal George Pell. On Saturday the Pope will create the 20 new cardinals and on Sunday he will concelebrate with all the Cardinals in a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.

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