VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Consultations and assessments concerning the overhaul of the Vatican bureaucracy and its finances continued as Pope Francis met for a fifth series of meetings with his international Council of Cardinals.
Also, “further clarifications” about significant changes at the Vatican bank were “possible, indeed, likely” to be announced in the next several days, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters July 2.
In response to news stories reporting that Ernst von Freyberg, the bank’s current president, would be replaced soon, Father Lombardi said the bank “is in a time of natural and peaceful transition.”
“The contribution of Ernst von Freyberg continues to be deeply appreciated and highly valued, and further clarifications are possible, indeed likely, next week after the meeting of the Council for the Economy,” he said. Von Freyberg, a German industrialist, was appointed to head the beleaguered bank in 2013 after his predecessor, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was ousted by the bank’s board for “failure to carry out basic duties.”
The new Council for the Economy, an international group of eight cardinals and seven lay experts charged with setting policies for the administrative and financial activities of all Vatican offices and bodies, was to meet July 5.
Father Lombardi said that during that meeting, the economic oversight council was to be “informed about developments” relating to the Vatican bank and to hear from the Vatican budget office about budget forecasts and yearend budget reports of Vatican offices.
The oversight council, which Pope Francis established in February, also planned to discuss its final statutes and lay out its work agenda for the future, the spokesman said.
Father Lombardi also told reporters that the Council of Cardinals, an eight-member group advising the pope on the reform of the Vatican’s organization and other issues, was now officially a group of nine members with the formal addition of Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.
Even though the cardinal had been participating in all of the council’s meetings since they began in October 2013, he was never formally named a member.
“Instead now I can confirm that it is no longer a C-8, but we’ve got a C-9,” said Father Lombardi, referring to the acronym being used to abbreviate the council of nine cardinals.
The pope had planned to attend all of the council’s sessions July 1-4 in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.
During the first two days of meetings, the group of nine cardinals, together with the pope, focused on three major subjects, Father Lombardi said.
First, the group listened to a presentation of issues or problems pertaining to the current governing structure of Vatican City State by council member, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.
The group also listened to a presentation by Cardinal Parolin about the Secretariat of State. The secretariat is divided into two large sections: one supervises a vast global diplomatic network of Vatican nuncios and the other oversees the work of the entire Roman Curia.
Lastly, the group delved more deeply into “the issue of the new structure” of the Vatican bank, and had in attendance four of the five cardinal members of the Commission of Cardinals Overseeing the Institute for the Works of Religion, the formal title of the bank.
In response to journalists’ questions about whether a text or draft of a new apostolic constitution reorganizing the church’s central administration had been drawn up, Father Lombardi said he believed the council was still in a phase of gathering information.
He said there has been “a large collection of materials” about the curia’s current structures and bodies that have been distributed among the council’s cardinal members.
It would be too soon “to speak of drafts,” he said; discussions are continuing about how to “move forward toward a complete plan of reformulating” the curia.
The council is “taking into consideration and systematically developing the reflections already formulated in the first round of study and review of the different bodies of the Roman Curia,” he said.
Father Lombardi also confirmed that the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors would be meeting July 6. He declined to provide further details, such as whether the pope would be meeting or having Mass with abuse survivors that day or the next day, as some media have reported.
The pope told reporters in May that he would be meeting with a group of survivors of abuse from various countries and would celebrate a private Mass with them in the Vatican guesthouse, where he lives.
For “discretion” and to guarantee the privacy of those who wish to avoid media attention, Father Lombardi said he would not be providing any details or information before the meeting.
“If something significant happens we’ll put out a bulletin Monday,” July 7, he said.
The commission, established by Pope Francis last December and led by U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, currently has eight members, including a survivor of clerical sex abuse, mental health professionals and experts in civil and church law. Its aim is to take a pastoral approach to helping victims and preventing abuse.