A plan to eliminate last vestiges of the old papal court?

There is word that Pope Francis is soon to issue two apostolic letters motu proprio (by his own authority) that will make further significant changes to the current structure of the Roman Curia, even before he promulgates a new apostolic constitution in the coming months that will totally reorganise the Church’s central bureaucracy.

Jan 27, 2019

By Robert Mickens
There is word that Pope Francis is soon to issue two apostolic letters motu proprio (by his own authority) that will make further significant changes to the current structure of the Roman Curia, even before he promulgates a new apostolic constitution in the coming months that will totally reorganise the Church’s central bureaucracy.

One of these will, in effect, diminish the role and authority of the prefecture of the Papal Household, currently headed by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, a longtime personal aide and cur- rent housemate of the retired Benedict XVI. According to Marco Tosatti, a journalist who played a key role in writing and orchestrating Archbishop Carlo Maria Vi- ganò’s denunciation of Francis and the former nuncio’s calls for the Pope’s resignation, the prefecture will be made a subsidiary office of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Tosatti claimed the 62-year-old Gänswein would reassign as Secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, replac- ing Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, who reaches retirement age of 75 in April. Obviously, this is just a rumour.

But it is one that makes perfect sense and, if it turns out to be true, should be greeted positively by those who support the current Pope and his reform agenda. The change in the status (and, probably, competencies) of the prefecture and its leadership would be good news for at least two reasons — one historical-organisational, the other, person- al-strategical. Firstly, it would further streamline Vatican bureaucracy and strip away yet another layer that remains of the old papal court. Currently, the prefecture handles “the internal organisation of the papal household and supervises everything concerning the conduct and service of all clerics and laypersons who make up the papal chapel and family”. It was called the Papal Court until 1968 when Paul VI re- formed it.

Today it organises the Pope’s schedule and his au- diences with both civil and religious figures, but it still retains ceremonial elements dating from the Renaissance period, in- cluding the presence of “papal gentlemen” that resemble court attendants. It’s not clear exactly how far Francis will go to further pare away such court-like features.

Secondly, the move would be good from a personnel point of view. It makes perfect sense that the prefecture of the Pontifi- cal Household would become a part of the Secretariat of State, since this latter department is the main organ of governance of the Holy See, especially in its relations with foreign civil and political powers.

 

As for Archbishop Gänswein, a transfer to a Vatican congre- gation would keep him in Rome and allow him to continue his service to the 91-year-old Benedict XVI, whom he has served as private secretary since the final years of the former pope’s ser- vice as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The other motu proprio Pope Francis is said to be preparing would, among other things, abolish the office of the Camerlen- go (chamberlain) of the Apostolic Camera, a post that has been vacant since last July after the death of its most recent occupant, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

This office, dating to the 11th century, pertains to overseeing the ordinary business of the Holy See and the Roman Curia in the period between the death of a pope and the election of his successor. Either of these above-mentioned moves, if they come to fruition, will cause further consternation among Catholics who have been critical of Pope Francis and his ongoing attempts to demythologise the papacy and strip it of its monarchical fea- tures. -- LCI (international.la-croix.com)

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