Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

Peace Be With You

"Pope Francis and the reform of Church governance"

by Bishop Blase J. Cupich

(From the May 16, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)

On April 13, this year, exactly one month after his election, Pope Francis announced that he was setting up “a group of eight cardinals to advise him in the government of the universal Church and to study a project of revision of ...the Roman Curia.” The cardinals come from each continent of the world. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston is the only cardinal from the United States.

This is both new news and old news. What is new is that the pope said he was doing this in response to the discussions that took place in advance and during the conclave that elected him. Several cardinals were very vocal about needed changes in the way the Roman Curia operates. It was no secret that some problems needed to be addressed such as better communication among the various offices of the Roman Curia and with the rest of the Church, and better transparency when it comes to decision making. There were also some unfortunate scandals related to leaked documents that dominated the news and which could not be left unattended. The cardinals made clear during the conclave meetings that the new pope should turn to the rest of the bishops for help in governing the Church.

But it is also old news, in that the Second Vatican Council made clear that the bishops constitute a body, which works together collegially. The Church “is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.” It is the bishops as “the successors of the apostles, who together with the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, the visible Head of the whole Church, govern the house of the living God.”

This means that all the bishops are to be concerned with the universal Church and all the churches, not just their own local Church. Or to put it another way, each bishop, one together with all the other bishops, is responsible for the Church. There is a joint and reciprocal responsibility. This is not a challenge to papal primacy, but respects the ecclesial model of co-responsibility: “The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head.”

Pope Francis realizes that the Church works best when it works together and he is calling bishops, initially through these eight cardinals, to help him chart a new way forward that can make the way the Church operates more effective and in tune with the needs of all.

These are very exciting days for the Church and I anticipate that we will see some reforms in the way decision making is carried out and how various offices in the Curia better communicate with one another and the rest of the Church.

In this case, new news is not only old news, but good news.



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