Cardinal Maradiaga: "The Pope already wanted to appoint a woman as head of the Vatican economy"

He is religious, cardinal, saxophonist and airplane pilot. And perhaps for this reason, he laughs, Pope Francis chose him as coordinator of the Group of Cardinals that has carried out, for nine years, the process for the reform of the Vatican Curia, which was reflected in a document, Praedicate Evangelium , with new regulations and a call to revolutionize the mode of government in the Catholic Church, which comes into force this Sunday. Honduran Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, one of the people in the circle of confidence of Pope Francis, participated last Thursday in a debate organized by Religión Digitala moment he took advantage of to comment with elDiario.es on the keys to the reform and the future of the Church, in a dialogue that leaves some unknown details and also surprises.

How did the idea of ​​reforming the Vatican Curia come about? When did you know that you would have to pilot this process?

Already in the meetings prior to the conclave [que eligió a Bergoglio como Papa], it was a common voice that a reform was necessary, after 30 years. Four days after the election, the Pope called me and said: "We are going to create this council." And there we begin.

How was it managed? Were there difficulties?

Of course. We thought that this reform of the Curia was going to be a piece of cake. No sir! We began to open a Pandora's box and one of the first problems that arose was an economy in disarray that had to sink its teeth. We did, but it has been a long road, listening to bishops from all over the world.

There was a council of cardinals that was dedicated to the economy, and the Pope removed it. One of its members said, "This is the first time I hear the truth." It's hard to say, but it was what happened. And it was our first job. That work led to the creation of a real Ministry of Finance, which today is the Secretariat of Economy, and to review the famous IOR (Vatican Bank), which had a series of problems. Today we can say that the economy is doing well, in accordance with the EU and Moneyval regulations.

Did you think at any time that you were not going to be able to finish the job?

Certainly, there was never discouragement, because at all times we had the support of the Pope: he never gives up, even if he encounters a wall of opposition. He has a very great faith. I did have serious discussions with many people.

The Pope has summoned all the cardinals at the end of August to discuss Praedicate Evangelium and the implications of the reform of the Curia, so that everyone can make it their own.

Exactly. I was very happy because the last consistories we only met for the liturgical and celebratory part. Instead, we will now have two days for discussion. That seems very good to me.

I understand that this does not mean that there is talk of the end of the pontificate at this time...

That are optical illusions, brain illusions of some.

Is the reform going to be left to the chance and good will of the bishops on duty?

This is a challenge that lies ahead of us, and the reason why the Holy Father has summoned us to a two-day consistory. Why? The text is there, but the official translation has not even come out. And this is a concern because sometimes within the Vatican Curia there is a sit-down strike.

There are those who do not like what is coming. They don't take it off but they take it easy, waiting for the Greek kalends. For this reason, now the Council of Cardinals has asked to establish the mechanisms for its entry into force, because one thing is that it enters into force and another that is put into practice.

Can the curials hinder the implementation of the reform?

They wanted to get me out of this reform because I was uncomfortable. That is not a secret. A change of people is necessary. That is what we have told the Pope. The constitution is there, but with the same people it can no longer be put into practice. The next step now, and I think the Holy Father is going to take, is that the cardinals who have already completed their five-year term, have already fulfilled their mission. You have to know how to choose people, it's key. With the same staff you can't. For me, these next few months will be key, in which the Pope will make many changes.

A new rule has just come out for employees of the Vatican State, with a new statute to put into practice. And it is difficult, because we have about 3,000 employees in the Vatican. When we touched on the subject of communication, we discovered that Vatican Radio had 300 employees. There were recommendations from this or that cardinal. It is not easy, but the goal is that: a renewal, because with the same people it will be almost impossible to apply the new Constitution.

Will there be a true protagonism of laity and women in the Curia?

Yes. Before there was no dicastery for the laity, the laity being the majority. In this pontificate alone, the number of women who are already in the Curia has increased by 17% and some in decision-making positions, for example in the Department of Economy. They are highly capable people.

I tell you more: the Pope wanted to put a woman as prefect of the Ministry of Economy. He could not do it because there are salaries, which this person deserved for knowledge and curriculum, that cannot be paid in the Vatican. This is an obstacle, but there are women in decision-making positions. It had never been thought that a woman could be secretary of the Synod of Bishops, and currently there is. The Pope has already said it: there is no objection to laymen and women being able to preside over a dicastery.

Will we have a woman prefect of some congregation?

Of course, for the time being, it couldn't have been for economic reasons, but the idea was to put a woman in charge of that dicastery. I am a simple servant… I feel very free to be able to advise, and the Holy Father listens a lot. And I will continue to do so as long as I am on the Council of Cardinals.

There is a lot of talk about priests, but another of the mainstays of the Church is religious life...

Yes. I myself am religious (Salesian). The Holy Father has created a religious cardinal who is in Mongolia. Religious life is at the forefront of evangelization. It is important that the religious continue to be there, that they are not afraid, even if whoever dares to be in the front is going to find himself beaten.

Another major problem is excessive bureaucratization.

In some dicastery this has already changed, but it is a reality. From the beginning we were faced with a pyramid: on top, the Holy Father, below bishops and episcopal conferences, and in the middle, the Curia. The Curia cannot be an obstacle, an entity that decides before the Pope does.

What are the difficulties of translating the reform into canon law?

The Pope has reformed the law in many canons, and we proposed to draft a new Canon Law. After much discussion, an average position was reached: an edition of the Code will be made incorporating all the modifications, which are many, such as those referring to the crimes of sexual abuse. It is a pending work, but it is going ahead.

How is the Church that dreams?

A Church that puts into practice and lives more and more its mission of bringing the Gospel. And that momentum can give life to all. One of my concerns was that the two years of COVID-19 have produced a lethargy for many bishops and priests. The laity have not, they have been much more active. What did it cost for the celebration of Sunday to be accepted through the media? The laymen do not make so many problems. I dream that clericalism is abandoned more and more and we can be a Church in which we are all truly brothers.

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