Pope Fran­cis the man­ager - sur­pris­ing, se­cre­tive

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Fa­ther Ernest Si­moni, a 88-year-old Al­ba­nian, was watch­ing Pope Fran­cis on tele­vi­sion this month when, to his as­ton­ish­ment, he heard the pon­tiff men­tion his name. Fran­cis an­nounced that the sim­ple, white­haired Ro­man Catholic pri­est, who had spent many years in jail dur­ing Al­ba­nia’s com­mu­nist dic­ta­tor­ship, was to be­come a car­di­nal. It was the first that Si­moni, or any of the other 16 new car­di­nals named by Fran­cis at the same time, had heard of their el­e­va­tion to the pres­ti­gious rank.

“I did not be­lieve ei­ther my ears or eyes,” Si­moni told Reuters in Al­ba­nia. “The pope said it, but I could not be­lieve it. ‘Can he be talk­ing about an­other Ernest?’ I said to my­self.” But more sig­nif­i­cantly, the pope had also kept nearly the en­tire Vat­i­can hi­er­ar­chy in the dark about his de­ci­sion, which he an­nounced on Oct 9 to thou­sands of pil­grims.

The episode il­lus­trates how Fran­cis has used his own dis­tinct man­age­ment style to try to shake up the Church since his elec­tion in 2013. He is keep­ing his cards close to his chest as he tries to push through a pro­gres­sive agenda to make the Church more wel­com­ing in the face of con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion. In­ter­views with a dozen cur­rent and past Vat­i­can of­fi­cials and aides paint a por­trait of Pope Fran­cis, a Je­suit who turns 80 in De­cem­ber, as es­chew­ing fil­ters be­tween him and the out­side world. He car­ries his own black brief­case, keeps his own agenda, and makes many of his own calls.

In con­trast, his two im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sors, Bene­dict XVI and John Paul II, worked hand-in-hand with the Vat­i­can bu­reau­cracy, which is known as the cu­ria. Be­hind Fran­cis’ ap­proach is a clear man­date, re­ceived from the world­wide car­di­nals who elected him in 2013, to over­haul the cu­ria. Over the decades the Vat­i­can’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has col­lected some of the Church’s most or­tho­dox of­fi­cials, partly be­cause of the lieu­tenants that Fran­cis’s two highly-con­ser­va­tive pre­de­ces­sors called to their en­tourages in Rome.

As a re­sult, Fran­cis be­lieves that only by re­duc­ing the power of the cu­ria - in­clud­ing sur­pris­ing it on some de­ci­sions - can the 1.2 bil­lion-mem­ber Church em­brace those who have felt marginal­ized, such as gays and the di­vorced. The ap­proach has scored Fran­cis some vic­to­ries, such as by­pass­ing con­ser­va­tive bish­ops to stream­line the pro­ce­dures by which Catholics can ob­tain mar­riage an­nul­ments. There have also been set­backs, such as putting too much power in one car­di­nal’s hands to re­solve fi­nan­cial prob­lems and later hav­ing to rein him in.

Some in­ter­nal crit­ics say he re­lies too much on snap judge­ments and oth­ers have urged greater trans­parency. They say his de­ci­sions to set up new struc­tures, such as an econ­omy min­istry and an ex­ter­nal ad­vi­sory coun­cil of eight car­di­nals from around the world, were di­vi­sive and that he could have en­acted change by putting new peo­ple at the top of ex­ist­ing de­part­ments.

One of the most strik­ing dif­fer­ences be­tween Fran­cis and his two pre­de­ces­sors is that it is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to de­ter­mine who, if any­one, is re­ally close to him. The per­sonal sec­re­taries of Bene­dict and John Paul - re­spec­tively Ge­org Gan­swein, now an arch­bishop, and Stanis­law Dzi­wisz, now a car­di­nal - were al­ways at their side and be­came celebri­ties in their own right, the pow­er­ful gate­keep­ers to get to the pope.

By con­trast, few peo­ple know the iden­ti­ties of Fran­cis’ two pri­est-sec­re­taries - Fa­ther Fabian Pedac­chio Leaniz from Ar­gentina and Fa­ther Yoan­nis Lahzi Gaid, an Egyp­tian. Both have other part-time jobs in the Vat­i­can and do not ap­pear or travel with him. “He does not want any fil­ters,” said a per­son who knows the pope well. “Some­times he will tell one of his sec­re­taries ‘so-and-so is ar­riv­ing in a few min­utes’ and that is the first they hear of it. Some­times he tells one with­out telling the other.”

This per­son, like most of the oth­ers in­ter­viewed for this ar­ti­cle, has had di­rect deal­ings with Fran­cis and all spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity as they were not au­tho­rized to talk to the me­dia. This year, an Ar­gen­tine vis­i­tor told a guard at a Vat­i­can gate that the pope was ex­pect­ing him. Phone calls had to be made to de­ter­mine he was not a prankster. The pope had not told any­one he had in­vited the vis­i­tor. One per­son close to the pope said he likes to man­age this way be­cause it gives him free­dom to by­pass rigid chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and makes it im­pos­si­ble for any­one to be­come in­dis­pens­able, as top aides of pre­vi­ous popes did.

Joy­ful De­struc­tion

Fran­cis likes to break rules and then change them once the shock has died down. Two weeks after his elec­tion, he in­cluded women in a litur­gi­cal ser­vice open only to men. Later, he or­dered that the rules be for­mally changed world­wide. Pope Bene­dict’s sud­den res­ig­na­tion in Feb 2013 brought to a cli­max one of the most tur­bu­lent pe­ri­ods in mod­ern Vat­i­can his­tory, in­clud­ing the ar­rest of his but­ler for leak­ing doc­u­ments that ex­posed cor­rup­tion and crony­ism. Fran­cis watched from afar as Bene­dict’s pa­pacy un­rav­elled un­der the weight of suc­ces­sive scan­dals. After he was elected, he ap­pointed trusted peo­ple to lower or mid-level po­si­tions in Vat­i­can de­part­ments, where they can be his eyes and ears. — Reuters

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