Pope discusses ‘decentralization’ of the Church with top cardinal advisors
ROME, December 14, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis’ Council of 9 advisory cardinals, known as the “C9,” held their twelfth meeting with the Holy Father from December 10-12, where they discussed, among other matters, Francis’ call to “decentralize” the Church. According to Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Council members emphasized the importance of the Holy Father’s October 17 discourse, on the occasion of the Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops, where he extensively developed the theme of “synodality,” but also recalled the importance of proceeding with a healthy decentralization.
The pope said at the time he “felt the need to proceed in a healthy ‘decentralization’” of power to the “Episcopal Conferences.” “We must reflect on realizing even more through these bodies,” he said, because the “hope of the Council that such bodies would help increase the spirit of episcopal collegiality has not yet been fully realized.”
At this week’s meeting, the Vatican spokesman noted, the Council remarked on “the need to further explore the meaning of this discourse and its importance in the work of reforming the Curia, and agreed to dedicate a specific session to this during the next meeting in February 2016.”
Towards the beginning of his pontificate Francis had already called for a “conversion of the papacy” in Evangelii Gaudium and stated that “a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated.”
The demand for devolution of power, including “genuine doctrinal authority” was voiced at the Ordinary Synod by those who reject Catholic teaching on human sexuality. Abbot Jeremias Schroder, who attended the synod as a representative of the Union of Superior Generals, said that both “the social acceptance of homosexuality” and the manner of dealing with “divorced and remarried persons” were examples “where bishops conferences should be allowed to formulate pastoral responses that are in tune with what can be preached and announced and lived in a different context.” The abbot alleged that such delegation was supported by a majority of the Synod fathers.
Reinhard Cardinal Marx, who is both Archbishop of Munich and Freising and a member of Pope Francis’ council of nine cardinals, has also called for more delegation to bishops’ conferences.
“We are not just a subsidiary of Rome,” Cardinal Marx said earlier this year. “Each episcopal conference is responsible for the pastoral care in their culture and has to proclaim the Gospel in its own unique way. We cannot wait until a synod states something, as we have to carry out marriage and family ministry here.”