VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Monday began the most critical week of his year-old papacy: Two financial-reform commissions are reporting their recommendations and preparations are starting for a summit on family issues, including church teachings on contraception, divorce and gay unions that many people who identify as Catholics reject.
In between, Francis will formally welcome 19 new cardinals into the elite club of churchmen who someday will elect his successor. In typical Francis style, the new cardinals hail from some of the poorest places on earth, such as Haiti, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
The first half of the week is being devoted the pope’s meetings with his “Group of Eight” advisers, a group of cardinals appointed to help overhaul the antiquated Vatican bureaucracy. Monday, the meetings covered experts’ recommendations for financial and administrative overhaul. Tuesday they’ll move on to the scandal-scarred Vatican bank, accused of helping some Italians evade taxes or launder money.
Francis began his papacy with a mandate to reform the Roman Curia, as Vatican’s administration is called. He wants to make it better help bishops in spreading the faith rather than posing an obstacle.
The family-issues summit of bishops is set for October. Cardinals this week will be planning it. Francis called for it late last year and took the unusual step of asking bishops around the world to survey ordinary Catholics about their understanding and practice of church teaching on marriage, sex and related issues.
The results, at least those from Europe and the United States, have been stark: Most Catholics rejected the church’s core teachings on sexual morals, birth control, homosexuality, marriage and divorce, calling them unrealistic or outdated. Yet most nevertheless said they were active in parish life and considered their faith important.
German Cardinal Walter Kasper is to sum up the results for the meetings Thursday. Germany’s bishops already have delivered some of the bluntest survey results, saying: “The church’s statements on premarital sexual relations, on homosexuality, on those divorced and remarried, and on birth control ... are virtually never accepted, or are expressly rejected in the vast majority of cases.”