VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis says he doesn’t want a “Vatican-centric” church concerned about itself but a missionary church that reaches out to the poor, the young, the elderly and even to nonbelievers. That’s the vision he laid out as he opened a landmark meeting Tuesday on reforming the 2,000-year-old institution.
Francis convened the inaugural meeting of his eight cardinal advisers for three days of brainstorming on revamping the antiquated Vatican bureaucracy and other reforms.
The closed-door meeting got underway against the backdrop of one of the most tangible signs that change is already afoot: The secretive Vatican bank, under investigation for alleged money-laundering by Italian prosecutors, released its first-ever annual report Tuesday, the latest step toward financial transparency championed by Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI.
No decisions are expected this week and Francis himself has said the reform process will take time.
The eight cardinals include Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston and a longtime friend of Francis; Cardinals Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo; and Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany, all of whom head bishops conferences in their regions.
It’s unclear how this parallel cabinet will work with the outdated Vatican bureaucracy that constitutes a pope’s primary cabinet, known as the Vatican Curia.
On the same day the inaugural “Group of Eight” meeting started, Rome daily La Repubblica published a lengthy interview with Francis, in which he denounced the “Vatican-centric” nature of the Holy See administration and acknowledged that popes in the past had been infatuated with the pomp of the Vatican.
“Heads of the church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers,” Francis said. “The court is the leprosy of the papacy.”