The Vatican That the Pope Leads

The Roman Curia is an ensemble of administrative bodies assisting the Successor of Peter as he exercises his supreme pastoral office for the good of the Church throughout the world. It is an important, needed “apparatus” in service to the mission of the Bishop of Rome and of the Church — a necessary bureaucracy that helps facilitate both the day-to-day and the “long-term” operations of the Universal Church.

But many Vatican watchers and members of the Church hierarchy seem to agree that one reason the “unexpected” Conclave of March 2013 elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope was the Conclave’s confidence in Bergoglio’s resolve to reform a Curia widely criticized for its alleged “dysfunction” due to “lobbies” and “careerism” having little to do with the Christian faith.

After his election on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis immediately set about choosing a Council of Cardinals — nine of them, all from outside the Curia — to meet with him every two months to advise him on various issues. “One thing Pope Francis has tried to make clear is that accessing the voice of bishops from around the world is different from hearing from the Curia,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. said. “He has the Curia to help implement policy decisions, but he needs the bishops to help address issues of the day and to say what we should be doing about this or that.”

Pope Francis has also held meetings of the entire College of Cardinals, and has revived more frequent use of the synodal system, calling regular meetings of bishops from around the world to debate issues and set agendas.

There have also been major restructuring initiatives — for example, the reform, led by Australian Cardinal George Pell, of the problematic Vatican financial system, particularly the scandal-plagued Vatican Bank — that represent more efficiency, more transparency, and more accountability in the workings of the Curia.

The following illustrates an outline of the Roman Curia’s various bodies, and the members of the Church hierarchy who have been entrusted with the leadership of these offices.


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