Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga
Pope Francis and the eight members of his international Council of Cardinals have begun looking at specific ways to reorganize the Roman Curia, the Vatican spokesman said.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the spokesman, said the cardinals planned to discuss the work of each congregation and, hopefully, each pontifical council.
They had begun at the council's Dec. 3-5 meeting, he said, with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
Lombardi told reporters Dec. 3, "They have to start somewhere," but declined to provide more information about why the congregation responsible for liturgy was the first to be examined.
The Vatican spokesman said journalists and other observers should not expect changes to the curia to be announced quickly.
Given the depth of what the council is trying to do, "I wouldn't expect any conclusions in a brief period of time," he said.
However, the council is aiming for "a renewal that will truly be a service to the universal Church," he said.
Pope Francis and the Council of Cardinals are committed to a complete overhaul of Vatican structures "in light of the expectations expressed by the College of Cardinals before the conclave" that elected Pope Francis in March, Lombardi said.
The pope and his council were not planning "to make amendments or limited adjustments" to Blessed John Paul II's 1988 document on the Roman Curia, but rather expected to draft a completely new apostolic constitution.
The eight cardinals and the pope held their first full meeting in October and looked primarily at the role of the Vatican secretary of state since Archbishop Pietro Parolin was about to take over from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
The council met briefly with Parolin late Dec. 3 to congratulate him and offer their support, Lombardi said, but he was not involved in the council's work.
The next meeting of the council with the pope is scheduled for Feb. 17-18, Lombardi said. The meeting will be right before a gathering of the entire College of Cardinals with Pope Francis on the eve of the Feb. 22 consistory at which Pope Francis will create new cardinals.
The coordinator of the council of eight cardinals said that for Pope Francis, the reform of the Catholic Church and its structures "isn't a project, but an exercise of the Spirit" that will take time.
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, spoke about the pope and his approach during a Dec. 4 book presentation at the Vatican.
The pope, Rodriguez Maradiaga said, "defines his role as being a guardian, like St. Joseph," watching over the Church "not as a policeman, but as a father."
"A pillar of the pope's spirituality is discernment," a frequent topic in the writings of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola and one which aims at a prayerful reading of reality and gathering opinions before making a decision, the cardinal said.
It is an instrument "for knowing the Lord better and following him more closely."
"Many, for example, think changes and reforms can happen quickly" in the Church - "that's what they're expecting of us" - but the pope believes that time is needed "to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment."
Pope Francis, Rodriguez Maradiaga said, is open and always scanning the horizon, prayerfully considering how he can follow Christ more closely and encourage others to do the same.
"In this context, you can understand his reform of the Church, which isn't a project, but an exercise of the Spirit," he said.