Pope Francis, since his election in March of 2013, has been heralded by major news outlets as progressive and open minded. Pope Francis looks to be a Pope of firsts, being the first elected Pontiff from the Americas, the first Jesuit Pope, and the first non-European Pope in over 1200 years.
On Monday morning, in a press release Pope Francis announced major revisions to the Vatican bureaucracy. These reforms, coming in the wake over scandals involving the Vatican Bank, are the largest reforms to happen to the Vatican in over 25 years, since Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic constitution in 1988. The intent of these overhauls are to increase transparency in the institution by setting up a powerful economy council headed by the new Secretariat for the Economy position, a role filled by the Australian Cardinal George Pell.
The Vatican’s Istituto per le Opere di Religione (Institute for the Works of Religion, abbreviated IOR), commonly referred to as the Vatican Bank, has been under scrutiny for several years for a scandal relating to money laundering. Since 2009, the Bank has had an ongoing investigation of multiple cases of money laundering, involving several members of the Bank including Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the ex-president of the IOR.
The new Economy Council, headed by the new Economics Secretariat Cardinal George Pell, consists of 8 Cardinals from numerous nations around the world and 7 economic experts. This council is appointed control all economic, personal procurement and administrative functions of the Holy See, tasked with the goal to improve transparency and consolidate existing management structures.
The news of this reform comes two days after the appointment of 19 new Cardinals by Pope Francis. Many of these Cardinals, 16 of which are under the age of 80 (permitting them to vote in the Papal Conclave), come from the developing world.
I think that this type of reform that is being initiated by Pope Francis is crucial to the Church at this time. After the numerous political scandals involving the Vatican Bank, Child Abuse and exposed internal corruption, the Church appears to be suffering from significant internal issues. The Church also has a public image issue. A common problem plaguing the Holy See is the lack of appeal to modern audiences, specifically youth. Its doctrine often seems out of touch with the common issues that many of its followers have day to day, from economic issues in first world counties to the rapid change of lifestyles in developing nations. Pope Francis has been praised by media for his seemingly down to earth rhetoric, his moderate view can hopefully realign official catholic doctrine to a more personal, meaningful message to the Church’s billion followers.