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New cardinals, and new opportunities for change

Pope Francis is going to name his first batch of cardinals in a few months, a move seen as part of the slow and methodical process of reshaping the church’s hierarchy more or less in the new pope’s image. The Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said today that the pope will preside over a consistory to create the cardinals on Feb. 22. The consistory is expected to be preceded by a separate meeting of the College of Cardinals, presumably to discuss impending changes in the Vatican bureaucracy. By February, there will be at least 14 “openings” for cardinals under the age of 80, who can vote in a conclave. It’s always impressed me how quickly a pope can put his mark on the College of C

Déjà vu on divorced and remarried Catholics?

Archbishop Gerhard MüllerToday’s Osservatore Romano featured a lengthy article reaffirming the church’s ban on sacraments for divorced and remarried Catholics. Written by Archbishop Gerhard Muller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the article reads like a pre-emptive strike on new efforts to promote pastoral flexibility on the issue. Given that Pope Francis has himself spoken of the need to take a new look at the situation of divorced and remarried, and has convened a Synod of Bishops for 2014 to discuss this and other issues, it’s legitimate to wonder where the church is really headed: substantial change or another dead-end debate. The archbishop makes several importa

Next synod will take a new look at family issues

Francis and his advisory council discussed the synod’s future Pope Francis has decided to devote the next Synod of Bishops to family pastoral issues, setting the stage for a far-ranging discussion that is likely to touch on questions concerning divorced and remarried Catholics, cohabitation and annulments. The synod will take place in October of 2014, and by then we may see other changes in the synod’s format that give its deliberations more weight. The Vatican announcement today was accompanied by an unusual statement by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, that seemed to be a clear signal to German bishops to hold off on pastoral innovations for divorced Catholics until the synod is

Francis caps a wild week with a warning against `worldliness’

Pope Francis greeting disabled children in Assisi It’s been a busy week at the Vatican: a date set for the canonization of two popes, a stunning new papal interview, a meeting of the pope’s “Group of 8” cardinal advisors and an important visit by the pope to the birthplace of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. When it comes to the future direction of the church and the reforms planned by Pope Francis, do we know anything more today than we did a week ago? Yes, we do. Despite Vatican cautions about expecting too much too soon from the Group of 8, we know after their first three-day meeting in Rome that they’re focusing on some key areas of reform: — The Roman Curia is in for an overhaul, no

In new interview, Francis takes aim at ‘Vatican-centric’ view

“Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.” Once again, Pope Francis has delivered a dose of candor, on topics ranging from reform of the Vatican bureaucracy to his favorite saints. And once again, he’s done it by going outside the usual (filtered) Vatican channels of communication – in this case, in a conversation with an Italian newspaper editor who happens to be a nonbeliever. The remark about the papal “court” will deservedly make headlines. It should be noted that Francis was not impugning the entire Roman Curia, which he said has another defect: “It is Vatican-centric. It sees and looks after the

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