Still a bureaucracy: Normal paperwork continues its flow at Vatican

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the extent that Vatican offices are bureaucracies, the normal flow of paper, correspondence and meeting planning continues even while there is no pope.

However, the publication of documents, the nomination of new bishops and the approval of statutes for Catholic universities and religious orders have been suspended. Anything issued in the name of the Vatican or in the name of the pope is not only suspended, but must be approved by the next pope.

"The general rule is that all ordinary business continues," said the secretary of one Vatican congregation. "Like in most bureaucracies, most of our business is ordinary business."

Commissions and subcommittees continue to meet, reports continue to be prepared, letters are being answered and Vatican officials are trying to tidy their desks enough to be able to inform the new pope about exactly where their various projects stand, officials said.

The final approvals for beatification signed by Pope John Paul II are still valid, said an official of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, although a beatification ceremony planned for April 24 has been postponed and another scheduled for May 15 may need to be pushed back to accommodate the new pope's schedule.

Franciscan Mother Marianne Cope of Molokai, who ministered to people suffering from Hansen's disease in Hawaii from 1883 to 1918, was among those scheduled to be beatified in mid-May.

Vatican officials said they are almost certain the new pope will confirm the celebration of World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in August and that it will draw an enormous crowd.

Another Vatican official said he was "pretty sure" the abridged version of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church," which Pope John Paul had commissioned, would be released as planned during World Youth Day. A project like the so-called minicatechism, which was almost complete when the pope died and which does not establish new teaching or norms, is unlikely to be delayed, he said.

The apostolic visitation of U.S. seminaries scheduled for the fall will go forward, since it is considered part of the ordinary business of the church, another official said.

The visitation, which is expected to focus particularly on formation for celibate chastity and on admissions criteria, comes in the wake of the child sex abuse scandals in the United States and concerns that tougher screening measures are needed for future priestly candidates.

However, Vatican documents on the psychological testing of priesthood candidates and on admission requirements, including questions about the suitability of homosexual men as candidates for priesthood, are on hold, said an official at the Congregation for Catholic Education, which was preparing the documents.

Another official told Catholic News Service that because his office cannot work on anything new he and his colleagues "are taking this opportunity to catch up on all our paperwork."

When Pope John Paul died, the prefects of the Vatican congregations lost their jobs; the offices are run by the congregation secretaries during the interregnum.

An Italian official in a usually frenetic office said: "You can tell the boss is gone; things are more relaxed. There is none of the running around trying to get everything done immediately that we normally have."

He did say, however, that employees still are returning to their offices on Tuesday and Friday evenings as they are expected to do from September through June. During the summer, Vatican offices are open only in the morning.

Msgr. John A. Abruzzese, an official in the Vatican office for the Synod of Bishops, said that according to canon law the synod on the Eucharist planned for October must be convoked by the new pope, and synod officers must be appointed by him.

The new pope could decide to delay the opening of the worldwide gathering of bishops, he said.

The "ad limina" visits made by bishops every five years to report on the status of their dioceses have been interrupted during the interregnum. The bishops of Congo barely arrived in Rome when Pope John Paul died April 2, forcing the postponement of their visits. The bishops of Senegal were supposed to begin their visits April 25, but those, too, have been postponed.

The rest of the year's "ad limina" schedule still is in place, although it is likely that some groups of bishops will be given new dates to accommodate the new pope's schedule, an official said.

While no final decisions can be made during the interregnum, most Vatican officials expect the new pope will confirm most of the work begun under Pope John Paul.


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