VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Friday publicly backed his new economy czar, who is overhauling the Vatican’s administration amid grumblings from some Holy See bureaucrats about a perceived abrasive and secretive style.
Francis acknowledged Cardinal George Pell’s “tenacity” in calling the imposing Australian the Vatican’s resident “rugby player.” Francis echoed Pell’s call for a new way of doing business at the Vatican in urging Holy See employees to embrace a “new mentality of evangelical service.”
“The path will not be easy and requires courage and determination,” he told members of Pell’s economy council, made up of cardinals and lay experts.
Pell has only been in office for a month but he has already ruffled feathers inside the Italian bureaucracy that has run the Vatican for centuries.
A week after arriving in Rome, Pell pushed through a press statement saying Francis had signed off on a new proposal he presented for the troubled Vatican bank that was approved by two study groups when no such agreement had been reached. The bank’s cardinal overseers later issued their own statement asserting their role in running the bank.
Francis was elected pope on a mandate to reform the antiquated Vatican bureaucracy, or Curia, and make it more responsive to the needs of the 21st-century Catholic Church. He created Pell’s new Secretariat of the Economy in February in the biggest Vatican reform in a quarter-century.
The announcement, issued days after Pell and other members of Francis’ “Group of Eight” cardinal advisers met, took many Vatican officials by surprise.