Pope Francis revamps Vatican internal operations

Biggest shakeup since ’88 creates new oversight role

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Monday revealed the first major overhaul of the Vatican’s outdated and inefficient bureaucracy in a quarter-century, creating an economics secretariat to control all economic, administrative, personnel, and procurement functions of the Holy See.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, one of the pope’s core eight cardinal advisers and a sharp critic of current Vatican governance, was named prefect of the new office. He reports to a new 15-member economy council made up of eight cardinals reflecting various parts of the world and seven lay experts.

Francis was elected pope a year ago on a mandate to reform the Vatican after documents stolen by Pope Benedict XVI’s butler revealed the Holy See bureaucracy to be a world of petty turf battles, corruption, and political intrigue.


Pell, the outgoing archbishop of Sydney, was remarkably candid about the 2012 leaks scandal, saying it showed a failure of governance under Benedict. ‘‘Problems there have been, problems there are, and this is one factor that has to be addressed as the new pope comes into office,’’ Pell said just days before Francis was elected in March 2013.

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‘‘It would be useful to have a pope who can pull the show together, lift the morale of the Curia [Vatican bureaucracy], and strengthen a bit of the discipline there and effectively draw on all the energies and goodness of the great majority of the people in the Curia,’’ Pell said in what could now be seen as pitch for his new job.

The new structure, the Vatican said, is intended to simplify and consolidate existing management structures and improve oversight, internal controls, and transparency — and provide more support for the Vatican’s works for the poor.

It’s the biggest reshuffling of the Vatican’s internal organization since Pope John Paul II in 1988 issued the apostolic constitution, Pastor Bonus, the blueprint for the Holy See’s various congregations, pontifical councils, and offices.

The changes appear to significantly diminish the scope of the secretariat of state, which previously had administrative control over the Holy See while also handling diplomatic relations.


The new secretariat of the economy’s name suggests some sort of parity with the secretariat of state — and in the official announcement, Francis said that the heads of the two secretariats are to work together.