(Photo: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini)
Pope Francis and eight hand-picked cardinals are set to rewrite the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus of the Roman Catholic Church in what some are calling an "unprecedented" move as they hold a three-day meeting this week.
The seven cardinals representing the Church on different continents, including Africa and Asia, Europe and Australia, North, Central and South America, will be joined by cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governing body of Vatican City State. Together, along with the bishop of Albano, serving as secretary, and Pope Francis, they will stay at the Santa Marta guesthouse and meet behind closed doors of the library inside the Apostolic Palace.
The Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, issued by Pope John Paul II on June 28, 1988, brought in a number of reforms relating to the central government of the Roman Catholic Church.
Francis has been hailed as a reform-minded pope during his six-month long reign as Vatican leader, choosing a more humble way of conducting himself than many of his predecessors. The exact changes expected to be put forth by the "papal G8," as the group is being nicknamed, remain to be determined.
Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican Press Office, revealed that the cardinals have already been hard at work, and have sought input from bishops in their particular parts of the world.
" …a Council of Cardinals with the task of assisting me in the governance of the Universal church and drawing up a project for the revision of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus on the Roman Curia," Fr Lombardi read from the official papal letter which speaks of the task of the Council.
The Vatican warned that reforms will likely take shape over months and even years, and that it is unlikely the first day of the talks will bring about any major documents or decisions. The reform aims to bring about a "much less Roman and more widely representative way of governing of the Universal Church."
Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras, promised that the changes will be far-reaching rather than just changing "this and that."
"No, that constitution is over," Maradiaga said in a TV interview. "Now it is something different. We need to write something different."
"In the past the Vatican has just revised existing rules so this is a rupture after a century of increasing centralization," added Gerard O'Connell, an analyst at the Vatican Insider.
"Cardinal Maradiaga is hinting that the Pope is asking the fundamental question: What can be decided in Rome and what at local level? How can the Roman Curia serve bishops instead of being an office of censure and control?"
Maradiaga further revealed that the cardinals have received suggestions about a reform from Catholics around the world, including 80 pages of suggestions coming from Latin America.
"You cannot have millions of Catholics in the world suggesting the same unless the Holy Spirit is inspiring," the cardinal offered.