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Curia reforms emphasise laity and spirit of service

ROME (CNS): “The main point of the new apostolic constitution is that the Church’s mission is evangelisation. It puts it at the centre of the Church and of everything the Curia does,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, told the Spanish Catholic weekly, Vida Nueva, in an interview published on April 27.
 
Cardinal Gracias and Oscar Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, both members of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, were speaking about the final draft of reforms approved by the council at its previous meeting in early April. Vida 
 
The provisional title of the new constitution, Praedicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel), “shows that evangelisation is the number one goal, ahead of anything else,” Cardinal Gracias told Vida Nueva.
“Pope Francis always emphasises that the Church is missionary,” Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said, which is why the new dicastery will supersede the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in importance.
 
The new Dicastery of Evangelisation will be a consolidation of the current Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, which coordinates the Church’s missionary activities, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, which aims to promote a renewal of the faith in countries where Christian vitality has been waning.
 
The cardinals noted that other major changes expected include: merging the Pontifical Council for Culture with the Congregation for Catholic Education; transforming the current Papal Almoner’s office, which is charged with coordinating Pope Francis’ acts of charity, into a Dicastery for Charity; and granting greater authority to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
 
Cardinal Gracias said it was important that the papal commission remain independent from the Roman Curia in order to maintain its credibility, however, “if you are not part of the Curia, you have no power over it.”
 
He said, “It’s necessary to strike a balance between credibility and effectiveness” for the commission, whose mandate has been advising the pope and helping local Churches understand and utilise best practices when it comes to safeguarding minors from abuse.
 
A major focus of the constitution is to create a change in mentality and in the relationship between the Holy See and the local Churches, represented by the world’s bishops, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said.
 
The constitution places the Vatican dicasteries at the service of both the pope and the bishops, who are “successors of the apostles” and “are not in an ecclesiological position below those who work in the Roman Curia,” the Honduran cardinal said.
 
Cardinal Gracias said, “The pope wanted a mindset of service to prevail and that the Curia also be directly available to the bishops” in order to help them.
 
The various Vatican offices, therefore, are not meant to be something placed between the bishops and the pope nor are they to be just an instrument the pope uses to supervise the bishops; the Indian cardinal said the curia is meant to be at the service of both the bishops and the pope.
 
The constitution also will include reforms that have already gone into effect, such as the creation of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the Dicastery for Communication.
 
Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said the new offices and upcoming reforms not only streamline the Curia, but also “emphasise the importance of the laity in the Church and for the Church” by allowing the possibility for a layperson to head a dicastery. Traditionally, congregations have a cardinal as prefect and pontifical councils have had either a cardinal or an archbishop as president.
 
The constitution’s prologue will emphasise the missionary role of all baptised men and women, not just those who have been ordained or consecrated, the Honduran cardinal added.  
 
The draft has been sent to the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the leaders of world’s bishops’ conferences, the synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches, the conferences of major superiors of men and women religious and some pontifical universities for their observations and suggested improvements.  
 
The two cardinals said they do not expect major changes to come out of the consultative phase since the five-year process of drafting the constitution involved gathering the ideas and concerns of the local Churches and the various Vatican offices.
 
It is hoped each overall assessment will be handed in before the end of May—in time for the six-member Council of Cardinals to study the suggestions and have an amended draft to give to the pope to sign June 29, the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul. If the suggestions do not come in time, the constitution’s publication would most likely be delayed until after the summer, the cardinals said.
 
The apostolic constitution will replace Pastor Bonus, Pope St. John Paul II’s 1988 constitution reforming the Curia.
 
The new constitution was not going to be a mere “cosmetic change but will promote the change in mentality that has already started,” Cardinal Gracias said.
 
“The Roman Curia will never be the same anymore,” Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga added.

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