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Pope to Curia: An end to the role of ‘inspector and inquisitor’

Pope Francis’ meeting today with officials of the Roman Curia was important for what was said and what wasn’t said. The annual Christmas encounter between the pope and his bureaucratic support system is often a time for “big” speeches that outline papal agendas, and what better occasion for Pope Francis to explain his big project of Curia reform? That didn’t happen. Instead, in a short speech, the pope made three points that, while offering some praise for the performance of the Roman Curia, also seemed to challenge the reigning attitudes there. First, the pope spoke of the need for professional skill and competence. “When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow slide toward the area of

Cardinal Burke dropped from key Vatican agency

Pope Francis’ plan to reform the Roman Curia is primarily a two-pronged approach: changing the bureaucratic structures and changing the members of Vatican agencies. Today we saw yet another sign that the new pope wants people in synch with his more pastoral vision of the church, and in particular with his views on what makes a good bishop. U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke has been dropped from the Congregation for Bishops, an office that wields tremendous influence in shaping the world’s hierarchy. Burke has been a kind of folk hero to conservative Catholics, in particular for his statements criticizing Catholic politicians who support legal abortion. Moreover, he has said that bishops who refuse

Pope says he won’t be naming women cardinals

The idea that Pope Francis might appoint women cardinals was always a long shot, and now it’s officially dead in the water. In an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa, the pope was asked about the possibility and responded: “I don’t know where this idea sprang from. Women in the Church must be valued not ‘clericalized’. Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism.” That would appear to rule out lay cardinals altogether. Evidently the pope is eager to take aim at clericalism in the church at some levels, but is not willing to upend tradition when it comes to the College of Cardinals. I still think he may make other significant changes when he names new cardinals

Why Pope Francis is Time’s "Person of the Year"

Today Time magazine named Pope Francis “Person of the Year” for 2013. Why I’m not surprised: Francis is a truly global figure, not just because he’s the head of a global religion but because of his radically different vision of the church and the papacy. As he put it, he sees the church first of all as a “field hospital” that has the primary task of healing people’s wounds. He favors dialogue over doctrine, closeness to the people over clericalism, mercy over judgment and joyful witness over cultural warfare. All this has struck a chord among contemporary Christians and non-Christians. Catholics, to their surprise, have watched the pope take up the Vatican II agenda again, breathing new life

Pope Francis to create new advisory commission on sex abuse

Pope Francis, who to date has said little about clerical sex abuse, today took what could turn out to be a major step in responding to the problem: He has decided to establish a Vatican-level commission for the protection of minors. According to Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who announced the move to reporters at the Vatican, the commission’s role will be to advise the pope on child-protection measures and pastoral care for victims of abuse. More specifically, the cardinal said, the commission of international experts will formulate new initiatives for child-protection, in collaboration with bishops, bishops’ conferences and heads of religious orders. The commission will be made up of lay e

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