Pope Francis on Saturday promulgated a new constitution that reshuffles the Vatican’s governing body, introducing more financial transparency and opening it up to women and the laity, fulfilling a promise made before his election in 2013.
The new constitution, which will take effect on June 5, reforms parts of the Roman Curia (the Vatican government) and will replace the “Pastor bonus” promulgated in 1988 by John Paul II.
Among the main changes are the possibility of lay people and Catholic women heading Vatican departments, as well as the addition of the advisory commission on sexual abuse to the Curia.
The dicasteries (ministries) of the Curia, which had functioned with opaque financing and behind closed doors for decades, were initially reluctant to accept a more centralized management, now enshrined in the new Magna Carta.
– Evangelization –
The document incorporates many reforms already applied by the Argentine pope, but it also contains some novelties, such as the desire to expand Catholicism beyond its 1.3 billion faithful.
The new Constitution “Praedicate evangelium”, of 52 pages, creates in this sense a new “dicastery” for evangelization, which will be presided over by Francis himself.
By becoming “chief evangelizer,” the pope is effecting a “tectonic shift toward a more pastoral and missionary church,” David Gibson, director of Fordham University’s Center for Religion and Culture, said on Twitter.
Along these lines, the Pope assures that any baptized Christian is a missionary.
“You cannot fail to take this into account when updating the Curia, whose reform must guarantee the participation of laity and women, including in government and responsibility functions,” he said.
“Pope Francis has been working on a new organizational structure for the Vatican for nine years. It is an important aspect of his legacy,” Joshua McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter said on Twitter.
– Protection of minors –
The text, which was published on the ninth anniversary of Francis’ pontificate, also adds the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors – a papal advisory body – to the diastery that oversees canonical investigations of clergy sexual abuse cases.
According to Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who heads the Commission, it is a “significant advance” that will give institutional weight to the fight against a scourge that has plagued the Church worldwide.
But Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of clerical abuse who was part of the commission before resigning in 2017 over the Church’s handling of the crisis, is a setback.
“The Commission has officially lost any semblance of independence,” he said on Twitter.