Is Pope Francis signalling a Vatican shakeup?
Speculation on who’s in, who’s out has Rome’s restaurants, cafés and bars all abuzz
By David Perlich, special to CBC News
Posted: Mar 19, 2013 4:52 PM ET
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2013 4:58 PM ET
Over the last few days, Pope Francis has charmed the crowds in Rome, and much of the media. His personal charisma, humility and his "walkabouts" have signalled a new kind of pontificate. When Francis speaks, his messages are simple and direct.
He has talked about “a church which is poor and for the poor.” He has described the church as a human institution, yet “her nature is not essentially political but spiritual.” And during his inauguration mass, he acknowledged that as Pope, he has power, but says true power is in “service.”
While he's not spoken publicly about governance issues, what he has said has set the stage for the kind of church he wants. Buried inside all his public speeches are stern messages for those within the church hierarchy.
- PHOTOS: Pope Francis’s inaugural mass
Reform of what is widely regarded as a dysfunctional church hierarchy was a hot topic when the cardinals met before the conclave. Now, people are waiting for Pope Francis to get down to the unenviable business of governance. Speculation on who’s in and who’s out has Rome’s restaurants, cafés and bars all abuzz.
In his stern message to cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, Francis said, “Walking, building-constructing, professing: the thing, however, is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in professing, there are sometimes shakeups. There are movements that are not part of the path; there are movements that pull us back.” People here in Rome are expecting some pretty substantial shakeups.
There’s a new Pope in town.
A big shakeup?
Francis has provisionally reappointed the heads of the curial departments. Provisional being the operative word, as he says he wants to pray and reflect before making permanent decisions. This should have some within the Curia thinking about brushing up their CVs.
Where Pope Benedict XVI often spoke of strengthening the church, Pope Francis is speaking about mercy and the need to “protect creation.”
The new Pope is already shaking things up in the Vatican with his actions and words, but he can’t do it alone.
Just as a president or prime minister can put their personality into a government, so the Pope can nurture a certain culture within the church.
But even in the Vatican, no man is an island. Who Francis picks to help him will say a lot about the way he wants the church to work.
He’s shown he’s a deeply pastoral man. But his words suggest a deep understanding of how he needs to create reform, if the church as an institution is to regain its credibility. As he says, “to be ‘protectors, we also have to keep watch over ourselves.”
A ‘spiritual’ church
As Pope Francis shook hands and exchanged greetings with monarchs and heads of state after his inauguration, he did so both as a religious leader, but also as the head of state of the Holy See. A state with some serious government problems, and a Pope called on, in part, to protect the church from itself.
As much as Pope Francis says he wants a "spiritual" church, Vatican circles are very deeply political places. Positions within the curial government are hard to come by; power and privileges are jealously guarded. Trying to convince the powerful to become “protectors,” as he puts it, will be a struggle.
Just as in secular politics, advancement may be based on talent in many cases, but it’s also based on who you know; who you have befriended, or offended.
People here are cautious about what they say. In restaurants, they look up to see who has entered, and who might be overhearing their hushed conversation. A casual coffee can easily turn into a social minefield as people attempt to puzzle out each other’s papal politics.
Pope Francis will now need to combat this entrenched culture. Speaking to the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, he said: “When one does not build on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency.” This can be read as a warning that Francis thinks there’s a serious problem in the church hierarchy. And he plans to collect some solid rocks for his new government.
Pope as ‘protector’
The fallout continues from the so-called “Vatileaks” affair, in which documents were published showing a Curia plagued by infighting, egos and personalities. Some of the top people in the church’s current governance structure are those blamed for the failures under Benedict. So will Francis bring in new faces? Or shift old ones around?
Will he appoint (or reappoint) cardinals with long curial experience? Or will it be outsiders who come in?
It’s clear he plans to take action, as during his inauguration mass he focused on the concept of a protector, and described how St. Joseph was called on to be “the protector of the church.” It’s not hard to imagine that he sees himself inheriting this responsibility. “Let us never forget,” he said, ”that authentic power is service, and that the pope, too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the cross.”
As Pope Francis continues to speak, those in Vatican circles and the church hierarchy around the world will continue to perform a kind of exegesis on his texts, looking to see how the wind is blowing. But it’s already clear this Jesuit pope has a powerful message for the people he wants to help him define the church.
“Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down.”
Top News Headlines
- 2 men jailed in Dominican wedding fight return to Canada
- Two Canadian men who were detained in the Dominican Republic for nearly three weeks after a post-wedding fight broke out at a resort have returned to Toronto, the latest step in a drama that the wife of one of the men said was "like a scene from the movies." more »
- Senators call for 'zero tolerance' on harassment in RCMP
- The RCMP should amend its code of conduct to explicitly define and prohibit harassment, a Senate committee is recommending in a newly tabled report. more »
- Are e-cigarettes safe to puff?
- As electronic or e-cigarettes grow in popularity, some health advocates want them to be regulated. more »
- Most groups don't want return of Trudeau speaking fees
- Most of the 17 charitable and other organizations that have paid speaking fees to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau during his time as an MP say they aren't interested in having their fees returned, despite Trudeau's offer on the weekend to reimburse any organization unhappy with his services. more »
Latest World News Headlines
- Google asks secret court to lift gag on surveillance
- Google is asking the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to lift its long-standing gag order on how often the company is asked to turn over data about its customers to the U.S. government. more »
- Brazil protesters keep up pressure on government
- Thousands of demonstrators flooded into a square in Brazil's economic hub, Sao Paulo, on Tuesday for the latest in a historic wave of protests against the shoddy state of public transit, schools and other public services in this booming South American giant. more »
- Silent protests spread as Turks mimic 'standing man'
- Demonstrators against the Turkish government have adopted a new way of protesting: standing in one place and remaining silent. They're following the lead of a performance artist whose eight-hour vigil ended when police arrested him. more »
- Huge ancient city at Angkor Wat revealed by lasers
- Airborne laser technology has uncovered a network of roadways and canals, illustrating a bustling ancient city linking Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temple complex. more »
- What happened to Betty Anne Gagnon? Jun. 18, 2013 3:09 PM Betty Anne Gagnon's mental disabilities didn't stop her from finding work, or finding friends. But when she needed it the most, she was unable to find help.
- Canadians in Dominican wedding fight freed from jail
- Huge ancient city at Angkor Wat revealed by lasers
- TV chef Nigella Lawson's husband cautioned by police for assault
- Montreal mayor resigns amid corruption charges
- Disabled woman's care before dying on bus still a mystery
- Student with bullied past, 'The Doorman,' graduates
- 'Standing man' inspires new, silent protests in Turkey
- G8 leaders agree to 7-point plan on Syria as summit wraps
- Parents of son 'brutally beaten' playing hockey want charges