11 October 2013
The Catholic Church in New Zealand is likely to have more representatives at the highest echelons of church governance, the president of the Council of eight (C8) cardinals, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga SDB, said in Wellington this week.
Cardinal Rodriguez, of Honduras, arrived in Wellington fresh from the first meeting of cardinals which Pope Francis has called to advise him on administrative reform. As well as chairing the council which brings together cardinals from all the world’s continents, Cardinal Rodriguez is President of Caritas Internationalis. He was primarily in Wellington to attend a Caritas Oceania meeting.
He was also able to attend a meeting of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference.
Sitting in on a meeting of the Wel-Com Advisory Board, he enthused about the energy of Pope Francis and the excitement of working with the new pope.
With only nine percent of Catholics in English-speaking countries and half the College of Cardinals coming from Europe, Cardinal Rodriguz said there was concern about the lack of representation from the southern hemisphere. Pope Francis was wanting to appoint more cardinals from this part of the world.
Laity given equal status in curia
Cardinal Rodriguez said the C8 plans to help the pope to reform the Roman Curia, making it more simple and effective and ‘closer to the people’. These plans include consideration of a new dicastery or department to represent lay people in the Church. ‘There is a dicastery for the bishops, for the priests, for religious but only a council for lay people who make up the greater part of the Church.’
There was a great deal of pressure to reform the curia from the cardinals in the conclave. ‘There were so many expectations especially from the media who wanted us to reform the whole Church in three days, which is not the purpose.’
He said the pre-conclave meetings brought up a great deal of discomfort over the publication of Pope Benedict XVI's secret papers. The cardinals in the conclave to elect Benedict's successor were also concerned about the pope not being fully informed. ‘There have been too many filters or gatekeepers preventing information from around the world reaching the pope,’ Cardinal Rodriguez said.
Following the first C8 meeting, 1 to 3 October, the agenda is already set for another meeting in December and the eight cardinals will get together again in April.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis has called an extraordinary synod for November 2014 which will include the presidents of all the bishops’ conferences. The focus will be on the family, and is expected to address the Church’s relationship with divorced and remarried Catholics. This is only the second time such a extraordinary synod has happened, the first in 1985 on the 20th anniversary of Vatican II.
When asked what they wanted for the extraordinary synod, the eight cardinals agreed that consultation was a priority. ‘The idea is that in the future there will be a council to receive the voices at the base of the Church. I am very happy with this,' said Cardinal Rodriguez.
Speaking of Pope Francis’ more informal way of working, Cardinal Rodriguez said four days after the pope was elected, he rang the cardinal and invited him to lunch.
‘I went to Santa Marta. We ate together. The first thing he told me was, “Listen, I want to put in practice what you were saying about a council of cardinals. Would you like to lead it?” Of course I couldn’t say no. So that’s when everything started. He wanted to listen to the voices of the people.’
Cardinal Rodriguez said the pope had asked that Church leaders go out to the edges of the Church and listen to what people are saying. ‘We are not the official speakers for every continent. We are just a group chosen to make the voices heard and to give another perspective on the issues.’