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Religion

Pope Francis signals eye for reform

A month into his papacy, Pope Francis has set up a committee of cardinals to help advise him how to best run the Church and reform the Vatican Curia. The move could signal a willingness to facilitate change.

Pope Francis has named eight cardinals to an advisory panel that will help him run the Church and study possible reforms of the Vatican’s Curia.

"[Francis] has formed a group of cardinals to advise him in the governing of the universal church and to study a revision of the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus on the Roman Curia," a Vatican statement said on Saturday.

The idea for the advisory body, the Vatican said, came from pre-conclave meetings.

The eight cardinals named to the panel come from Italy, Chile, India, Germany, Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States, Australia and Honduras.

Governance problems

The need to reform the Vatican’s administration was a constant theme discussed in religious circles before the conclave last month, largely owing to the Curia's involvement in mishaps and scandals that plagued Pope Benedict’s reign before he resigned in February.

The pontiff has been meeting with department heads in recent days, getting an idea for how the government was last reformed by Pope Paul VI a half-century ago.

Leaks of papal documents to the media last year showed the Vatican Curia to be suffering power struggles and incompetence. In addition to the alleged corruption and infighting, Francis must deal with a Church plagued by priests’ sexual abuse of children and struggles over the running of the Vatican’s bank.

Looking into reform

The new panel will look at the Pastor Bonus from 1988 under Pope John Paul II, which serves as the blueprint for the administration of the Holy See and the Vatican City State. It organizes the work and jurisdictions of congregations, council and other offices that make up the Curia, or church governance.

Reform of the Vatican bureaucracy has been demanded for decades, but both John Paul and Benedict XVI favored other priorities. Recent scandals have led to louder calls for change, and Francis' record of governance in Argentina has given reformers hope.

An Italian archbishop will serve as secretary of the panel, which will hold its first formal meeting in October in Rome. Francis has already been in touch with each of the eight cardinals, the Vatican said.

tm/slk (AP, Reuters)