Since Pope Francis took office in March, almost everything he has said and done indicates that he is bent on carrying through a thorough reform of the Roman Catholic Church, beginning with the Vatican itself, writes Hans Kung in The Tablet.
Scarcely a month after taking office, he created an international group of eight cardinals to advise him on reform of the Roman Curia.
Only one of them was a Vatican official; the others came from Australia, Chile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, Honduras, India, and the US, and some of them were outspoken critics of Vatican operations. As Secretary, he appointed an Italian bishop who had recently gone on record saying that bishops should be men of service, not men of power.
On October 1, this commission, now officially constituted as the Pope's permanent advisory body, met for the first time for three days of discussion behind closed doors, during which the Pope listened more than he spoke.
In a long interview given a week earlier to the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, to be published on the opening day of the meeting, Pope Francis stated that, in creating this body, he wanted 'advisers,' not 'courtiers' and that he intended it as a first step in making the Church 'an organisation that is not just top-down but also horizontal.'
Candidly, he expressed his criticism of the Curia and outlined his programme of reform. He admitted that in the past, 'heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers,' and he went so far as to say that 'the court is the leprosy of the papacy.'
Admitting that not everyone in the Curia is a courtier and comparing its legitimate function to that of a military quartermaster corps, he observed that 'it has one defect: it is Vatican-centric. It sees and looks after the interests of the Vatican, which are still, for the most part, temporal interests. This Vatican-centric view neglects the world around us.'