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The Church is without a camerlengo

Vatican City, Jul 17, 2018 / 12:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With the July 5 death of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the office of camerlengo is now vacant. A sensitive position, above all in the period between the death of a pope and the election of his successor, the Church awaits Pope Francis’ nomination of a new camerlengo.

The camerlengo is one of two head officials of the Roman Curia who do not lose their office while the papacy is vacant. The camerlengo administers Church finances and property during the interregnum.

However, Francis could choose to do as did Ven. Pius XII in 1941 and not nominate a new camerlengo. At the death of Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri, Ven. Pius XII did not nominate a successor, and at his death in 1958, the cardinals elected, at the beginning of the sede vacante, Cardinal Benedetto Aloisi Masella.

The position of the camerlengo is regulated by the apostolic constitutions Pastor bonus and Universi dominici gregis.

Paragraph 17 of Universi dominici gregis establishes that “the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church must officially ascertain the Pope’s death and “must also place seals on the Pope’s study and bedroom”, and later “the entire papal apartment.”

The camerlengo is also responsible for notifying the cardinal vicar for Rome of the pope’s death, who then notifies the people of Rome by special announcement. He takes possession of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican and Palaces of the Lateran and of Castel Gandolfo and manages their administration.

“During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church has the duty of safeguarding and administering the goods and temporal rights of the Holy See, with the help of the three Cardinal Assistants, having sought the views of the College of Cardinals, once only for less important matters, and on each occasion when more serious matters arise,” the constitution states.

After being appointed, the new camerlengo will swear before the pope, who will give him a scepter, a symbol of the authority of the camerlengo. The current scepter, covered in red velvet, dates to the papacy of Benedict XV.

Vatican's former legal chief says canon law should include care of creation

Rome, Italy, Jul 17, 2018 / 12:14 pm (CNA).- The Vatican's former top advisor on canon law has made a public call to insert legal obligations for the care of creation into the Church’s universal canon law -  making it a legal duty for Catholics not only “not to harm” the environment, but to improve it.

According to veteran Vatican watcher Andrea Tornielli, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, former head of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, made the proposal during a July 12 event in Rome titled “Dialogue on Catholic Investments for the Energy Transition.”

During the closed-door discussion, representatives from the Vatican and Catholic organizations spoke about how to invest responsibly towards a transition to renewable energies.

In an interview with Vatican Insider, Coccopalmerio discussed canons 208-221 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law, which enumerate “Obligations and rights of all the faithful.”

This section “outlines an ‘identikit’ of the faithful and of their life as a Christian,” the cardinal said, but noted that nothing is mentioned “about one of the most serious duties: that of protecting and promoting the natural environment in which the faithful live.”

The proposal he outlined, which he suggested could be submitted to the pope but considered by his former department, would be to ask for a new canon to be added to the obligations of the all faithful, specifically treating environmental responsibility. 

Coccopalmerio, whose resignation was accepted by Pope Francis in April this year, went on to give his own ideas of how it might be worded: “Every faithful Christian, mindful that creation is the common house, has the grave duty not only not to damage, but also to improve, both through everyday behavior, and through specific initiatives, the natural environment in which each person is called to live.”

The canons Coccopalmerio referenced address general obligations for Catholics relating to the practice of the faith and maintaining communion with the Church. They do not address specific moral obligations or particular doctrinal teachings. Those canons do not, for example, include the Church’s prohibition of artificial contraception or the obligation to observe just labor practices. 

Drawing inspiration from Laudato si', Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical on the environment, participants at the event agreed on the Catholic Program of Disinvestment, sponsored by the Catholic Climate Movement, which urges ecclesial institutions to make a public commitment to move away from financial investments in fossil fuels.

Participants also highlighted the importance of pursuing ethical investment strategies in line with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, according to Tornielli.

Pope Francis has often expressed his environmental concerns and, in his message on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in 2016, he said maintaining our common home ought to be considered a work of mercy.

“We usually think of the works of mercy individually and in relation to a specific initiative: hospitals for the sick, soup kitchens for the hungry, shelters for the homeless, schools for those to be educated, the confessional and spiritual direction for those needing counsel and forgiveness,” the pope said in that message.

Looking at the concept of works of mercy, “we see that the object of mercy is human life itself and everything it embraces,” he said. Francis proposed caring for creation as “a complement” to the two traditional sets of seven corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

“May the works of mercy also include care for our common home,” he said, explaining that as a spiritual work, care for creation “calls for a grateful contemplation of God’s world which allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us.”

In a conference held earlier this month to mark the third anniversary of the publication of Laudato si', Pope Francis said a change of heart is needed when it comes to issues related to the environment.

Future actions which promote the care of creation, “presuppose a transformation on a deeper level, namely a change of hearts and minds,” he said, adding that while this obligation binds all religious  communities, Christians have a special role to play.

Holy See hopes UN migration agreement will defend human dignity

New York City, N.Y., Jul 17, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican’s representative at the United Nations expressed hope that a new UN agreement on best practices for international migration will guarantee respect for the human dignity of all migrants.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN, spoke July 13 at the concluding session of intergovernmental negotiations on migration, the culmination of a nearly two-year process.

“This first-ever comprehensive framework on migration will serve as the international reference point for best practices and international cooperation in the global management of migration, not only for Governments, but also for non-governmental entities among which are the faith-based organizations, who are truly the hands and feet on the ground to assist migrants in difficulty,” said Auza.

The agreement --  the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration -- details 23 international objectives, including the eradication of human trafficking and “use of migration detention only as a measure of last resort.”

Since 2000, more than 60,000 people have died in their attempt to migrate, according to the International Organization of Migration's research on migrant deaths and disappearances.

The Vatican representative told the UN that “Pope Francis encapsulates these shared responsibilities and solidarity in four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.”

“This Global Compact will make it more difficult for anyone — States, civil society or anyone of us — to be unaware of the challenges that people on the move face and to fail to meet our shared responsibilities towards them, in particular toward those most in need of our solidarity,” continued Auza.

Auza quoted Pope Francis’ Mass for Migrants homily on July 6. “Before the challenges of contemporary movements of migration, the only reasonable response is one of solidarity and mercy . . . A just policy is one at the service of the person, of every person involved; a policy that provides for solutions that can ensure security, respect for the rights and dignity of all; a policy concerned for the good of one’s own country, while taking into account that of others in an ever more interconnected world.”

The archbishop added that the Catholic Church “will continue to commit itself fully to the benefit of migrants, always respecting their rights and human dignity.”

The global compact on migration will be formally adopted at a UN meeting in Marrakech, Morocco on Dec. 10-11. Following a decision by the Trump administration, the United States withdrew from the negotiations in December 2017.

“The Holy See nurtures the hope that the Global Compact will not only be a matter of good migration management, but truly be, as is its ultimate purpose, a significant step forward in the service of the person, not only of every migrant, but for all of humanity,” concluded the archbishop.

Surprise! Pope Francis unexpectedly celebrates Vatican wedding

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2018 / 04:22 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis surprised wedding guests Saturday when he unexpectedly celebrated a marriage being held at a small chapel in the Vatican Gardens.

“Look who came as a surprise! Pope Francis is always surprising!” said Brazilian Fr. Omar Reposo on his Instagram account.

The wedding - between Luca Schafer, a member of the Swiss Guard, and Letícia Vera, a former employee of the Vatican Museums, took place in the Church of St. Stephen of the Abyssinians, just outside St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

Sources close to the couple told ACI Digital, CNA’s Portuguese language sister agency, that only the bride and groom know that Pope Francis was going to preside over the wedding. The pope’s arrival surprised the wedding guests, and the priests who concelebrated the wedding.

According to Vatican Media, the pope preached about three verbs that can help couples to experience the fullness of marriage: “to begin,” “to stop,” and “to resume the journey.”

This was not the first time that Pope Francis celebrated a wedding at the Vatican. In September 2014, the pope presided over the marriage of 20 couples in St. Peter’s Basilica and in July 2016 he did the same for a deaf couple in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Read Vatican guide to consecrated virginity with discernment, canonist says

Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2018 / 01:56 pm (CNA).- A new Vatican instruction on the role of consecrated virginity has drawn criticism from an American group, which says that a key paragraph of the document could lead to confusion. At issue is whether entering the Church’s “order of virgins” requires that women actually be virgins.

On July 4, the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life made public Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago, an instruction about consecrated virginity in the Church.
 
The instruction drew criticism from the Lansing, Mich.-based U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins, which put out a statement that criticized the document, calling it “intentionally convoluted and confusing.”

The group said the document seems to say that “physical virginity may no longer be considered an essential prerequisite for consecration to a life of virginity,” and called this implication “shocking.”

The association is a voluntary organization of consecrated virgins in the U.S. According to its 2015 statistics, it has 97 voting members and another 34 associate members.

“There are some egregious violations of chastity that, even if not strictly violating virginity, would disqualify a woman from receiving the consecration of virgins,” the association said.

“The entire tradition of the Church has firmly upheld that a woman must have received the gift of virginity – that is, both material and formal (physical and spiritual) – in order to receive the consecration of virgins,” the statement added.

The controversial paragraph of the document, #88, instructs that: “it should be kept in mind that the call to give witness to the Church’s virginal, spousal and fruitful love for Christ is not reducible to the symbol of physical integrity. Thus to have kept her body in perfect continence or to have practiced the virtue of chastity in an exemplary way, while of great importance with regard to the discernment, are not essential prerequisites in the absence of which admittance to consecration is not possible.”
 
It continues: “The discernment therefore requires good judgement and insight, and it must be carried out individually. Each aspirant and candidate is called to examine her own vocation with regard to her own personal history, in honesty and authenticity before God, and with the help of spiritual accompaniment.”

Jenna Cooper, a Minnesota-based canon lawyer who has been a consecrated virgin of the Archdiocese of New York since 2009, told CNA that the Vatican’s instruction must be read carefully to be understood.
 
“I don’t see this as saying non-virgins can be virgins. I see this as saying in cases where there is a real question, it errs on the side of walking with women in individual cases for further discernment, as opposed to having a hard-dividing line to exclude women from this vocation,” Cooper told CNA.
 
“The presumption of the document is that these are virgins who are doing this (consecration),” she said.
 
“An important thing to do though is to read the questionable paragraph in context with the rest of the document,” she continued. “The instruction talks a lot about the value of virginity, Christian virginity, the spirituality of virginity.”
 
Cooper also said that the document can’t be understood as a change in Vatican policy. “The nature of this kind of document as an instruction doesn’t change the law that it’s intended to explain,” she said.
 
The rite of consecration itself is the law, while the instruction is meant as “an elaboration for certain disputed points,” Cooper said, adding “It’s just giving you further guidance in places where existing law is vague.”
 
In Cooper’s view, the document’s “more generous description” of the prerequisite of virginity is “allowing for people in difficult situations to continue some serious discernment.” One disputed paragraph, she thinks, was meant to apply to “difficult cases” where a woman cannot answer whether she is a virgin according to a strict standard. She cited cases where women might have lost their virginity without willing it or against their will, or out of ignorance. Women might have “committed grave sins against chastity but not actually lost their virginity in their minds”
 
Judith Stegman, president of the U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins, praised the document, saying it “responds well to many questions” about consecrated virginity in the Church. She lauded its emphasis on the consecrated virgin’s “mystical espousal to Christ as key to this bridal vocation of love that images the relationship between Christ and the Church.”
 
However, she reiterated that paragraph 88 was a “confusing statement.” Immediately after the document was published, she said, “we began to receive comments from readers stating, ‘Whoa! Physical virginity is no longer required for the consecration of virgins!’”
 
As for difficult cases, Stegman said, “If a woman has been violated against her will and has not knowingly and willingly given up her virginity, most would hold that she would remain eligible for consecration as a virgin. Such a case would require depth of good judgment and insight carried out in individual discernment with the bishop, as is discussed in paragraph 88.”
 
“It is not such cases, however, that are most common, and if the intention of paragraph 88 was to address situations such as rape, it could have done so directly, without compromising the essential and natural requirement of physical virginity for the consecration of a virgin.”
 
“In our society, questions of eligibility for the consecration of virgins are raised by those who have given up their virginity, perhaps only one time, and who have later begun again to live an exemplary chaste life.” she said, saying the document “should have indicated that these women do not have the gift of virginity to offer to Christ.”
 
“They may make a private vow of chastity, or enter another form of consecrated life, but the consecration of virgins is not open to them.”
 
The association cited the introduction to the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, which consecrates a virgin as “bride of Christ” so that she might be “an eschatological image of the world to come and the heavenly Bride of Christ.”
 
The association’s statement also acknowledged that the prerequisites for consecration are not changed by the instruction.  
 
Cooper also praised the instruction as “a very positive development for this vocation.”
 
“One thing I’m particularly happy about is I think it does an excellent job articulating the values of this vocation for the wider Church,” she said.

The Vatican estimates there are now more than 5,000 consecrated virgins worldwide.

Love is the heart of doctrine on family, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2018 / 11:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to Antillean youth, Pope Francis said love is the core of the Church's doctrine on the family, which is something every young person is responsible for carrying forward.

To understand what this love means, the pope urged young people to both read and study chapter four of his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, which is dedicated to “Love in Marriage.”

“I tell you that the core of Amoris Laetitia was chapter four. How to live love. How to live love in the family,” he said, and told youth to read and talk about the chapter with each other, because “there is a lot of strength here to continue going forward” and to transform family life.

Love “has its own strength. And love never ends,” he said, explaining that if they learn how to truly love as God taught, “you will be transforming something that is for all of eternity.”

Pope Francis sent a video message to participants in the youth assembly of the Antilles Bishops Conference, which is taking place in the Archdiocese of Saint-Pierre and Fort-de-France, in Martinique, from July 10-23.

In his message, the pope asked youth whether they were really living as young people, or if they had become “aged youth,” because “if you are aged young people you are not going to do anything. You have to be youth who are young, with all the strength that youth has to transform.”

He said young people should not be “settled” in life, because being “settled” means one is at a standstill and “things don't go forward.”

“You have to un-stall what has been stalled and start to fight,” the pope said. “You want to transform, you want to carry forward and you have made your own the directives of the post-synodal exhortation on the family in order to carry the family forward and transform the family of the Caribbean,” he said.

In order to promote and carry the family forward, one must understand both the present and the past, Pope Francis said.

“You are preparing to transform something that has been given to you by your elders. You have received the history of yesterday, the traditions of yesterday,” he said, adding that people “cannot do anything in the present nor the future if you are not rooted in the past, in your history, in your culture, in your family; if you do not have roots that are well grounded.”

To this end, he told youth to spend time with their grandparents and other elderly people, and to take what they learn and “carry it forward.”

Francis appoints four presidents delegate for youth synod

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2018 / 10:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis appointed Saturday four cardinals as presidents delegate to the synod on youth, which will meet at the Vatican in October.

His July 14 appointments were Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon; Cardinal Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina; Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon; and Cardinal John Ribat of Port Moresby.

Each were appointed cardinal by Pope Francis.

The presidents delegate will take turns presiding over the synod on the pope's behalf. They are to guide the synod's work, delgate special tasks, and sign the synod's documents.

The Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation will address questions of sexuality and gender, the role of women, and the desire for a Church which knows how to listen.

The synod's instrumentum laboris was issued last month, and key issues highlighted in it include increasing cultural instability and conflict, and that many young people, both inside and outside of the Church, are divided when it comes to topics related to sexuality, the role of women, and the need to be more welcoming to members of the LGBT community.

A good Catholic proclaims the Gospel, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jul 15, 2018 / 05:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- By virtue of their Baptism, every Catholic is called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ – a mission which cannot be separated from the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“It is truly [our] Baptism that makes us missionaries,” the pope said in off-the-cuff comments July 15. “A baptized person who does not feel the need to proclaim the Gospel, to announce Jesus, is not a good Christian.”

The first necessary element of all authentic missionary discipleship is the “changeless center, which is Jesus,” he said. This is because proclaiming the Gospel cannot be separated from Christ or from the Church.

Announcing the Gospel “is not an initiative of individual believers, groups or even large groups, but it is the Church’s mission inseparably united with her Lord,” Pope Francis said. “No Christian proclaims the Gospel ‘on his own,’ but only sent by the Church who received the mandate from Christ himself.”

Speaking during his weekly Angelus address, the pope reflected on the Christian’s mission as seen when Jesus sends out his disciples “two by two” to preach repentance.

Jesus’ message to his disciples in this episode of the Gospel concerns not just priests, but every baptized person, who is “called to witness, in the various environments of life, the Gospel of Christ,” he said.

Like the disciples were warned, the message may not be welcomed, but this aligns with what Jesus himself experienced, the pope said, noting that he was “was rejected and crucified.”

“Only if we are united with him, dead and risen, can we find the courage of evangelization,” Francis said.

Noting that the center of the mission must always be Christ, he pointed to examples of saints from Rome who are examples of being “humble workers of the Kingdom,” such as St. Philip Neri, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, St. Frances of Rome, and Bl. Ludovica Albertoni.  

They did not work to advance themselves or their own ideas or interests, but acted always as messengers sent by Jesus, he said.

Pointing to the Blessed Virgin Mary as “the first disciple and missionary of the Word of God,” the pope concluded by asking her help to bring “the message of the Gospel to the world in a humble and radiant exultation, beyond any rejection, misunderstanding or tribulation.”

Beatification cause opens for Jesuit Pedro Arrupe, early mentor to Pope Francis

Vatican City, Jul 13, 2018 / 12:43 pm (CNA).- A cause has begun in the Diocese of Rome for the beatification of Fr. Pedro Arrupe SJ, former superior general of the Society of Jesus. The priest, who served as a mentor to the future Pope Francis, was a controversial figure within the Society of Jesus.

Jesuit Father General Fr. Arturo Sosa announced Arrupe’s cause at a meeting in Bilbao, Spain with some 300 Jesuits and lay associates involved with the International Association of Jesuit Universities.

The news was confirmed to CNA by the communications director for the Jesuit Curia in Rome, Fr. Patrick Mulemi, who said the cause is “has been opened,” but has just begun. “We are right at the beginning of the process,” he said, explaining that the Jesuits will follow the same procedure as any other cause.

Born in Spain in 1907, Arrupe served as superior general for the Society of Jesus from 1965-1983, leading the order through the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. During that time, he also served three consecutive terms as president of the Union of Religious Superiors General, from 1967-1982.

According to papal biographer Austen Ivereigh, who wrote the widely read biography of Pope Francis, “The Great Reformer,” Arrupe and then-Fr. Bergoglio “had a very good and close relationship, and Bergoglio saw him as a spiritual father, he enormously admired him and was inspired by him.”

It was Arrupe who appointed Bergoglio the Jesuit provincial of Argentina in 1973, and the two remained close. The  made a joint-visit to the Diocese of La Rioja to support Bishop Enrique Ángel Angelelli Carletti, who was assassinated in 1976 during Argentina's Dirty War.

Arrupe entered the Society of Jesus in 1927 after studying medicine. After the order was expelled from Spain in 1932, he went to study in Belgium, the Netherlands and the United States as part of his formation before being ordained a priest.

He was ordained in 1936 and obtained a degree in medical ethics before being sent to Japan in 1938 to work as a missionary. While abroad, he became the master of novices for the Jesuit novitiate in Japan, and was living in Hiroshima when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945.

With his history in medicine, the young priest converted the novitiate into a makeshift hospital for the wounded. A decade later, in 1958, he was named the first provincial for Japan, overseeing all Jesuits who lived in the country.

Arrupe held the position until May 1965, when he was elected Father General of the Jesuits during the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, just six months before the closing of the Second Vatican Council.

After the council, the Jesuits, who were the largest religious order in the world at the time, shifted focus and embraced a more social-justice oriented approach to their apostolic work, under Arrupe’s direction.

During the order's 1974-75 32nd general congregation, Arrupe passed a number of new decrees, including one titled: “Our Mission Today: The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice,” which focused heavily on social justice issues and became a blueprint for the Society’s direction.

Arrupe's changes were met with opposition by many Jesuits, and under his leadership, the order clashed with Pope Paul VI and other Vatican and ecclesial figures.

In 1973, Pope Paul VI issued a warning to Arrupe about experimentation in the Society of Jesus. Six years later, Pope John Paul II accused the Jesuit leadership of “causing confusion among the Christian people and anxieties to the church and also personally to the Pope,” criticizing in particular “secularizing tendencies” and “doctrinal unorthodoxy” within the order.

Arrupe acknowledged issues within the Society of Jesus, and made efforts to reprimand some priests accused of public doctrinal deviances. Some in the order questioned whether he should have made systemic changes in responses to papal criticism, rather than issuing individual corrections.

Within the Society of Jesus, one of the groups who opposed Arrupe's changes called themselves “la vera sociedad,” or “the true society,” and were on the verge of splitting from the order, intending to intervene in the 1974 general congregation meeting until Bergoglio stepped in, at Arrupe’s request, to calm the fury.

Arrupe, Ivereigh said, “held [Bergoglio] in high esteem, he trusted him.”

As for the future pope, Ivereigh said Bergoglio was “unquestionably” influenced by Arrupe's leadership, and often cited his former superior general in speeches.

“Arrupe was something of a model for Francis,” the biographer said, explaining that the main threads of similarity between the two were not only a shared concern for the poor, but also their approach to modernity, believing that what was needed was “an engagement” between faith and the modern world.

“Not to reject modernity, but to discern what was good, what was threatening to the Gospel, and what wasn't. I think that was Arrupe's big thing, rather than being in this constant confrontation with the modern world, to have a dialogue with it,” Ivereigh said.

After suffering a stroke in 1981, Arrupe resigned as superior general of the order and recommended American Jesuit Vincent O’Keefe take his place. However in a move some perceived as a rebuke, Pope John Paul II appointed Jesuits Paola Dezza and Giuseppe Pittau to oversee the society until a new leader was elected.

During the September 1983 general congregation, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., was elected as the new minister general, a position he held until 2008, when he resigned and was succeeded by Fr. Adolfo Nicolas.

Arrupe died Feb. 5, 1991.

After new appointments, will Pope Francis' stalled curial reform start moving?

Vatican City, Jul 11, 2018 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- A long-time priority of Pope Francis, curial reform – specifically the overhaul of Vatican finances and communications – has been hanging by a thread for the past few years, and some wonder about the pope’s ability to make any meaningful or lasting changes in the Vatican’s way of doing business.

Observers seem to be underwhelmed at the progress Francis has made on major governance issues, among them financial oversight and sexual abuse policy. Some insiders have noted a palpable sense of confusion about what the pope's reforms are meant to be, and where exactly they are going.

Since June 2017, the man tasked with leading the Vatican's financial reform, Australian Cardinal George Pell, has been on leave, and is now preparing to face a historic trial for accusations of sexual abuse in his homeland. Some observers have argued that even when Pell was working at full-strength, the financial oversight structures Francis put into place were so tangled by internal power grabs that pursuing meaningful progress had become a delayed goal.

The pope's communications overhaul seemed to be in shambles after the man charged with overseeing the process, Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano, stepped down amid the fallout of March’s “Lettergate” fiasco.

In recent months Francis has also come under fire for inaction on the topic of clerical sexual abuse, specifically in Chile.

Accused of insulting victims and ignoring their complaints, the pope had a major turnaround on the situation in Chile after receiving fresh evidence against a leading abuser priest in the country and launching an investigation which yielded findings frightening enough to make the pope stop dead in his tracks and speed into reverse.

But one of Pope Francis' closest aides over the past five years, newly-minted Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who is leaving the Secretariat of State for a new position as head of the Vatican's office for canonizations, said recently that the pope's reform still lacks an overall vision.

In comments to the press ahead of the June 28 ceremony in which he was given his red biretta, Becciu said that while many steps had been taken, it is still “too early” to give a comprehensive judgment on the Curial reform, since it is not yet finished.

An overall unifying vision is still missing, he said, explaining that “so far we've had elements, but not a unified idea.” This vision, he said, will likely be provided in the new apostolic constitution drafted by the pope's nine cardinal advisors, called “Predicate Evangelium,” or “Preach the Gospel,” which has reportedly been completed and is now awaiting approval from Pope Francis.

A gloomy-seeming outlook for curial reform is often pinned on poor personnel decision-making at the Vatican. But two recent appointments to major posts could mark a turning point for Francis, and provide a much-needed morale boost for Catholics looking for the pope to clean house in Vatican offices.

The first of these is the appointment of a close Francis ally, Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, to take the reigns at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA), which oversees the Vatican's real estate holdings and investments.

During pre-conclave meetings in 2013, APSA was a key point in discussions on curial reform, as many cardinals recognized it had been being plagued by corruption and was in serious need of greater oversight.

Until Galantino's June 26 appointment, APSA was led by Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, who has been accused of corruption and was, at one point, under investigation for charges of embezzlement in a previous diocese.

It took Francis more than five years to take action on APSA, which has been a sore spot for many who were hoping to see the pope crack down on financial issues. In a recent interview with Reuters the pope admitted that “there is no transparency” at APSA.

“We have to move ahead on transparency, and that depends on APSA,” he said in the interview. Many Vatican watchers are hopeful that Galantino will be able to bring in the accountability and oversight the office has typically resisted.

The second important personnel change is the appointment of Italian layman Paolo Ruffini as head of the Vatican's communications office, making him the first layperson to lead a Vatican department, also called a dicastery.

Though Ruffini's nomination was highly celebrated among Italians, who are pleased to have one of their own moving to such an important post, the new prefect is also seen as highly competent, bringing with him professional experience in journalism dating back to 1979.

Until his appointment Ruffini worked as the director of TV2000, the network of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, and he brings with him extensive experience in television, radio, and print, making him a choice perceived as a competent, well-rounded pick for the job.

Ruffini is considered to be in line with key priorities of the current pontificate, and his appointment can be read as follow-through on Pope Francis' commitment to eradicate a clericalist mentality in the curia and to add more laypeople to the mix.

Despite the fact that Msgr. Dario Vigano, who headed the office until the “Lettergate” scandal, is expected to stay in the dicastery in the advisory role the pope gave him, observers are hopeful that at least some of the pope's stubbornness in decision-making is gone, and that the days of poor personnel choices will be a thing of the past.

And with several decisions made that seem to indicate reform is moving in the right – or at least a better – direction when it seemed to be on the brink of failure, a natural question comes to mind: what changed?

Some believe the turning point was the pope's reaction to the Chilean abuse crisis. After initially defending the bishop at the center of the debate, calling accusations of cover-up on the part of the bishop “calumny” and claiming that no evidence of the prelate's guilt had been brought forward, Francis had a major turnaround when news came out that evidence had been presented years prior which he either never got, or potentially ignored.

It was a serious blow to Francis' credibility in the fight against sex-abuse in the Church, and to his public image. Soon after he sent his top investigator on abuse to Chile to look into the situation, and after receiving a 2,300 page report, the pope issued a letter to Chilean bishops saying he had made “serious errors” in judging the situation due to a lack of “truthful and balanced information.”

Many observers pinned the blame on 84-year-old Chilean Cardinal Javier Francisco Errazuriz, who is a member of the pope's nine-member Council of Cardinals and who has come under heavy fire from victims for covering up abuse while archbishop of Santiago, and for trying to discredit victims' testimonies.

In his recent interview with Reuters, Pope Francis said his council of cardinal advisors, called the “C9” and whose mandate will be up in October, would be refreshed with new members.

Though such a decision is natural after term limits end, some observers have pondered whether the Chilean crisis and the accusations against Errazuriz, the absence of Cardinal Pell and separate accusations of financial misdealing on the part of Honduran Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga, also a member of the advisory team, have, to a certain degree, awakened Francis to the need to be more selective with his inner circle.

The answers to these questions, of course, are pure speculation, but if one thing can be said about the pope's latest round of appointments, it's that while his track record on reform efforts has not been the best, and while there are still loose ends to tie up, he is at least aware of the problems and he seems intent on making good on his promises, even if that does not happen immediately.

And if the first five years of Pope Francis' curial reform have largely been seen as ineffective, the appointment of Ruffini and Galantino just might give the flicker of hope needed for Catholics to decide that the jury is still out on the long-term process. However, as with any reform, really only time will tell.