In a press conference held on October 2, in the Holy See Press Office, director Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., gave information on the meeting of the Council of Cardinals, taking place in the Vatican from 1 to 3 October.
The members of the Council, before the beginning of the meeting, concelebrate with the Pope the morning Holy Mass in the Santa Marta chapel, said Fr. Lombardi. Following the first meeting yesterday morning in the third loggia of the papal apartment, they decided to continue the meetings in the Santa Marta guesthouse, where they all currently reside. The meetings will take place in a small room, not far from the Chapel, for logistic reasons, ensuring that the members do not need to transfer to the apostolic palace. The meetings follow an intense schedule: from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Pope Francis will participate in the morning and evening sessions on Tuesday. Today he was not present due to the general Audience, but he will be present this afternoon and tomorrow.
The Pope emphasized the significance of the chirograph by which he instituted the Council of Cardinals, “a document that gives this group juridical status, stability and continuity and which makes the Council a more consistent tool, especially from a juridical point of view”. He also specified that the members are not “continental delegates”, but rather members of the episcopal college who are also cardinals, who have rich pastoral experience, and who come from large dioceses. The Holy Father chose them for this reason, but they are not delegates of the episcopates of various parts of the world.
“They are all people whom the Pope holds in high regard, with whom he is in confidence and accord and whose advice he considers to be helpful in taking what he considers to be the most suitable approach to the governance of the Church”, continued Fr. Lombardi. “This is not an insignificant task, since confidence and esteem foster the climate of serenity necessary for an open and constructive dialogue”.
The first meeting yesterday afternoon opened with a brief introduction from the Pope and a reflection on the ecclesiology of Vatican Council II, in order to define the nature of the Council in relation not only to organizational matters, but to “a broader theological and spiritual vision of the Church, inspired by the ecclesiology of Vatican Council II and the implementation of its themes”. “Naturally”, specified Fr. Lombardi, “this is not achieved simply by means of a morning round table, but indicates the views the various board members take. They have considered issues such as how to revive and refresh the relationship between the universal and local Church, communion and collegiality, the need to be a Church of the poor, and the role of the laity; all points raised by Vatican Council II and which form a backdrop to the work of the Council of Cardinals. In the light of this, they will later consider structures of governance”.
Each of the participants presented a brief summary of the suggestions received, and brought along material which forms part of the common working documentation for the Council. This has enabled the group to classify the major themes to be considered in this and subsequent sessions.
The afternoon session was dedicated to the Synod of Bishops and was attended by the new secretary, Bishop Baldisseri. “It is an important theme, both for the participation of the episcopate in the life of the Church through the synod, and for the urgency of initiating preparations for the next synod, about which we will probably know more within a few days. However we do not know if it will be an ordinary or extraordinary synod”, said Lombardi, adding that the Pope had made reference to a “theme of an anthropological nature: the family according to the Gospel, but in any case it is not yet precise. The Holy Father also said that prominent themes such as family and matrimonial pastoral will be the order of the day in the activity of the Church in the near future”.
“Today, Wednesday, the Council has focused on other issues such as the reform of the Curia in its various aspects, the function of the Secretariat of State, relations between the dicasteries and with the Holy Father. There have been many suggestions and contributions. It is a long term task, and therefore one should not expect conclusions in the short term or within these days”.