New Apostolic Constitution: The Pope begins the debate on the future of the Church with all his cardinals | International
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The last meeting of the Pope with all the cardinals took place in 2014. It was a preparatory meeting for the synod on the family, a completely different circumstance from the current one. The new meeting convened by Francis, which will be held between Monday and Tuesday, seeks to grease the new Apostolic Constitution, a norm through which progress should be made in the decentralization of the curia and the connection of Rome with the Catholic world through of evangelization. The meeting, a kind of conclave without electoral implications, is chaired by the Pontiff himself and comes at a very advanced stage of the pontificate. The appointment has raised some collateral expectations, since the Pope’s health is not the best after spending weeks in a wheelchair due to his knee problems.
The meeting was convened taking advantage of last Saturday’s consistory, where the pontiff named 20 new cardinals. The celebration for the creation of new prelates in itself attracts many cardinals each time it takes place, but this time it has been greater (190 participants) when the Pope’s interest in explaining the Constitution to them was known (Praedicate Evangelium) on which the Vatican has worked for nearly nine years. The new norm, which was to lay the foundations for a great change, has gone rather unnoticed in the Catholic world. The Vatican itself, after long and hard work, was not able to communicate it properly at the time and its impact was very diluted.
The new Constitution, in force since June 5, modifies the organizational structure of the Roman Curia and replaces the Shepherd Bonus, promulgated by John Paul II in 1988. Among other things, it opens the door to a greater presence of laity and women in the Church. That, precisely, is one of the topics that is debated with the cardinals – a questionnaire was sent to them to develop several questions – during the two days of work. In addition, the new norm accommodates the recent regulation, which expands the control, surveillance and sanctions to prevent abuse of minors in the Catholic Church. The Vatican, as usual, did not report the content of the first day of meetings and limited itself to explaining what was taking place.
Beyond issues of internal use, and given the context of recent weeks, there is some attention to whether the meeting will also address the growing need to create a rule that regulates the papal succession. Especially when a pontiff decides to step aside, like Benedict XVI, and becomes pope emeritus. The decision taken by surprise by Joseph Ratzinger in 2013 had only very distant precedents – precisely, Francis visited the tomb in L’Aquila of Pope Celestine V on Sunday, the last to do so in the 13th century – and lacked a legal basis to regulate . Now, given the possibility that the Pontiff will follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, many voices insist on the urgency of a normative structure that avoids confusing situations in the future.
Francis, in fact, has already announced that if the time comes to resign, he would simply become the bishop emeritus of Rome. That is to say, there would not be two popes dressed in white sharing the Vatican gardens as before. The relationship of coexistence with Ratzinger, however, has been exquisite. In fact, Francis went to see him at his Vatican residence with the new cardinals he had just created. “Resigning popes are humble,” he noted during his visit to L’Aquila the next day, in clear reference to the German emeritus.
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