Pope bent on changing Curia creates third reform body

Pope Francis has appointed a new commission tasked with curial reform, this time to consider changes to the Vatican’s “economic and administrative structures” (see Reuters here).

Vat bank cardThe eight-person commission is tasked with the “simplification and rationalisation of the existing bodies and more careful planning of the economic activities of all the Vatican Administrations,” the Vatican said in a statement today, adding that the commission will “draft reforms of the institutions of the Holy See, with the aim of a simplification and rationalization of the existing bodies and more careful planning of the economic activities of all the Vatican administrations.”

It will also “offer the technical support of specialist advice and develop strategic solutions for improvement, so as to avoid the misuse of economic resources, to improve transparency in the processes of purchasing goods and services”.

Pope Francis at today's General Audience

Pope Francis

It is the third such reform panel the Pope has created. The first, in April, was a commission of cardinals who head local Churches across the world to advise him on church governance in general; the second, in June, was a panel made up of mostly non-Italians to oversee changes to the Vatican Bank. The new commission, made up of seven lay people and a Vatican monsignor, will have a broad brief, according to the legal document creating it. Among other things it will recommend reforms to avoid wasting money, improve transparency in buying goods and services, better administer the Vatican’s vast real estate holdings and ensure correct accounting principles.

According to Bloomberg, the new body will be led by Joseph FX Zahra, currently chairman of Middlesea Insurance Co Ltd. It will hold its first meeting “shortly after” Francis’s return from World Youth Day in Brazil next week.

Judging by the number of expert commissions he has appointed and their make-up — almost all are people outside the Vatican and non-Italians, and the new body is almost entirely lay — Pope Francis is determined on a thoroughgoing, root-and-branch renewal of the Curia, to ensure that it serves and does not undermine the evangelising mission of the Bishop of Rome.

AP reports that the Vatican posted a 2.2 million euro  budget surplus for 2012, an improvement from the previous year when it registered a 14.9 million euro shortfall. The Vatican City State, which runs the Vatican Museums, post office and supermarket, has a separate budget; its profits were 23.08 million euros, up from 21.8 million euros in 2011. Together the Holy See and Vatican City State employ about 4,760 people.

This latest reform move comes amid continuing controversies over the Vatican Bank. The latest scandal turns on allegations by a respected Vatican journalist that Bank’s new ‘prelate’, installed recently by Pope Francis, has engaged in homosexual misconduct. The story has been strongly denied by the Vatican spokesman, Fr Lombardi, but defended by the newspaper involved (see John Allen here).

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