Pope Francis and his cardinals: not the same hymn sheet

It was possibly a watershed moment in Holy See media relations.

The scene was the Sala Stampa of the Holy See some 10 days ago.

Australian Cardinal George Pell was presenting the New Economic Framework for the Holy See, a document which outlines proposed major reforms not only to IOR (the Vatican bank) and to APSA (the Vatican City treasury), but also to all the various Vatican-run media.

Halfway through the press conference, a reporter from Milan newspaper Corriere Della Sera asked a question.

She wanted to know why, among the six new lay members of the board of IOR, there was no Italian representative.

For a brief moment, almost the entire press room started to laugh.

So, what do you want to do? Put the foxes in charge of the chickens again?

Has not the recent traumatic history of IOR been besmirched by the nonchalant ease with which, thanks to a bit of blind eye and to a bit of maladministration, Italian high finance (Banco Ambrosiano, Enimont) and sometimes even organised crime used IOR for their own money-laundering purposes.

Cardinal Pell, of course, was much too polite to acknowledge any such thoughts but, rather, he assured us that there will soon be Italian bankers on the IOR board.

The point, though, is there for all to see.

One aspect of Pope Francis’s reform drive, but by no means the only aspect, involves changes in the all-too Italian ways of much of the Roman curia, which at times can still seem modelled on the court of a 16th-century Tuscan city republic.

Recently, Italian media reported the Pope’s alleged annoyance at the fact that the former secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was having major reconstruction work done on a 700 sq m flat inside the Vatican.

Francis, of course, continues to live in 70 sq m in the relatively modest surrounds of the Vatican’s Santa Marta residence, rather than in the Apostolic Palace.

When questioned about his apartment, Cardinal Bertone pointed out that (a) the Pope was not annoyed about it, (b) it was 300 sq m, not 700, and (c) that all the reconstruction work was being done at his own expense.

Curiously, in the middle of these polemics, the papal Twitter issued a tweet which read: “A sober lifestyle is good for us and enables us to share more fully with those in need.” Continue reading


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