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U.S. cardinal on panel expected to push overhaul of Vatican bureaucracy

| Saturday, April 13, 2013, 6:51 p.m.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Saturday named eight cardinals from all parts of the globe to advise him on running the Catholic Church and reforming the Vatican bureaucracy, marking his first month as pope with a major initiative to reflect the universal nature of the church in key governing decisions.

The advisory panel includes Sean Patrick O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston who was considered a likely candidate for pope. Notably, there is only one Vatican official in the group; the rest are cardinals from North, Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia. Many have been outspoken in calling for a shake-up of the Vatican bureaucracy, while others have tried to rid the church of sexually abusive priests.

In the run-up to the recent conclave, many cardinals demanded the Vatican be more responsive to their needs on the ground and said the Holy See bureaucracy itself must be overhauled.

In its announcement Saturday, the Vatican said Francis got the idea to form the advisory body from the pre-conclave meetings where such complaints were aired. A reform of the Vatican bureaucracy has been demanded for years, given that both John Paul and Benedict XVI essentially neglected in-house administration of the Holy See in favor of other priorities. But the calls for change grew deafening last year after the leaks of papal documents exposed petty turf battles within the Vatican bureaucracy and allegations of corruption in the running of the Vatican city state.

Francis' advisory group will meet in its inaugural session Oct. 1-3, though Francis is already in contact with the group's members, the Vatican said. The members of the panel include Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Vatican city state administration — a key position that oversees, among other things, the Vatican's profit-making museums. The non-Vatican officials include Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, the retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo; George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia; and Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who will serve as coordinator.

Monsignor Marcello Semeraro, bishop of Albano, Italy, will be the panel secretary.

O'Malley, a Capuchin friar, has spent his career cleaning up churches from sexually abusive priests. Pell was outspoken in the run-up to the conclave about the need for reform in the bureaucracy. Maradiaga heads the church's Caritas International charity federation and is a rare moderate in the College of Cardinals who hasn't shied from criticizing the failings of the curia.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who has become something of the ringleader of the reform group, said he had high hopes that Francis would turn the Holy See into a model of good governance given his background and no-nonsense style.

“Sometimes in the past the curia has been an example of what not to do, instead of what to do,” Dolan said in an interview after Francis' installation. “We need to look to the Holy See and the Roman Curia as a model of good governance, of honesty, of simplicity, of frugality, of transparency, of candor, of raw Gospel service, of a lack of careerism, of people who are driven by virtue.”

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