SWEEPING MEASURES OF POPE'S NEW DEAL
FROM. ALAN McELWAIN IN ROME
IN his sweeping changes in the Roman Curia Pope Paul reveals his long ex perience (he spent more than 30 years in the Vatican Secretariat of State) and frustrations with the Church's governing body which, down the years, has become increasingly autocratic, self-centred, "Italianate" and out of step with the changing world.
He will give vast new authority to his Secretary of State and create the first Vatican "Foreign Ministry" and "Ministry of Finance". Life-time appointments to top Curia posts will be virtually abolished. The heads of Sacred Congregations will be ippointed for five-year terms, and will resign when a Pope dies.
The 11,000-word document Regimini Ecclesiae Universae (to the Government of the Universal Church) is dated on the Feast of the Assumption, but will operate from January 1 after publication of orders putting its changes into effect. [Fuller details on Page 2.] No matter from what angle one views the reforms, the overriding fact is that at long, long last a Pope has laid hold on the Curia's archaic frame and given it the shake-up it so desperately required if it was to help run that Church in the Modern World upon which the Vatican Council placed such strong emphasis. The Curia is to be streamlined, modernised, and reinvigorated.
In applying his broom to cobwebs and his oilcan to rusty machinery, Pope Paul has also made things easier for his successors by limiting top appointments to five years or to a Pope's lifetime. His successors will be in a position to choose new teams of their own.
He is doing away, too, with careerism within the Curia. No longer will curialists with absolutely no experience outside the Curia be able to tell pastoral bishops how to go about their business. All future members of Sacred Congregations must have had "pastoral experience in the care of souls in the field."
The Curia, too, is to be more and more "internationalised", so that it will have upon it minds that can equate the Universal Church as a whole, not merely as a branch of the Roman autocracy.
Pope Paul made the first practical move to this end a week ago, when he announced that bishops from throughout the world, chosen on merit, were to serve on the Sacred Congregations, until now headed exclusively by cardinals.
Hitherto, Pope Paul himself has been the head of three important Congregations Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Holy Office). Oriental Churches and Consistory (now to be called Congregations of the Bishops.) Under the reforms, he will drop out of these so that all congregations will be on the same juridical level.
He has also made the Cardinal Secretary of State second only to himself, and will leave it to him to settle disputes among the Congregations and generally to supervise things on his behalf.
There is to be speed and efficiency in dealing with matters between the Curia and the Church outside Rome. For the first time, the compulsory use of Latin (a trial to many a bishop) in letters between Vatican and Bishops has been cut out and henceforth the vernacular will be permitted.
The Curia Is instructed to answer letters promptly. Bishops are also instructed to follow suit, with a gentle reminder that some letters sent to them during the Ecumenical Council were answered months later and some weren't answered at all.
Heading innovations among the proposed reforms is the creation of a new "Foreign Ministry," which will deal with foreign governments and maintain diplomatic relations tasks at present carried out by the Secretariat of state, which in future will be the Pope's personal secretariat.
The setting up of the "Foreign Ministry" emphasises the increasingly important role of the Vatican in international affairs, especially since Pope Paul assumed the role of "mediator" in international disputes and also that of the "Apostle of Peace."
The creation of a "Finance Ministry" (the Prefecture of Economic Affairs.) is long overdue. Vatican finances have long been one of the Holy See's top mysteries, and control of them has been haphazardly dispersed — something which is known to have worried Pope Paul ever since he took office.
Now the Finance Ministry will prepare an annual budget for the Church, audit Vatican accounts and check over the financial side of proposed Holy See activities.
Conceivably, in future the Pope, like any bank customer, will be able to ask for his balance—and get it promptly.
Facts and figures
There is also to be a Vatican Statistical Office, which will provide the Church everywhere with basic facts and figures. It is even to have an up-to-date cuttings service.
This could be the beginnings of an effective Vatican Press relations service — something which it so lamentably lacks at a time when it most needs it.
The new deal for clergy proposed among the reforms may help to give fresh spirit to many depressed priests at a time when the Church is extremely worried by the mounting fall-out from the clergy ranks and a corresponding fall-off in seminarians. It also emphasises the importance Pope Paul attaches to pastoral activities.
This first great shake-up of the Curia since it was founded by Pope Sixtus VI in 1855 may not satisfy all critics, but it has all the makings. Much will now depend on the .men who get the jobs. and, of course, on the man who, having launched the reforms, must see them through—Pope Paul VI.
Editorial Comment—P.4: Further Details—P.2