Pope Francis urged his cardinals Thursday to cooperate in reforming the outdated and dysfunctional Vatican bureaucracy, saying the overhaul will help him govern the Catholic Church better and spread the faith more effectively.
Francis summoned cardinals from around the world to hear his proposals for revamping the central government of the 1.2-billion-strong church. The proposals include merging smaller offices into two big new congregations: one for laity, family and life issues; another for charity and peace that will have an important new sector focused on the environment, a core concern for Francis.
Francis said the aim of the reform was to encourage greater harmony and collaboration in "absolute transparency," to help the church spread the faith and reach out to others.
"Certainly, reaching that goal won't be easy," he said. "It needs time, determination and above all the collaboration of everyone."
Francis was elected two years ago on a mandate from cardinals to reform the Vatican hierarchy, which during the final year of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy was exposed publicly as being a place of petty, back-biting turf battles, beset by cronyism, corruption and waste.
Francis made clear what he considered to be wrong with the Vatican Curia last December, when he ticked off 15 ailments that can afflict its members. He cited "spiritual Alzheimer's," lusting for power and the "terrorism of gossip."
The reform proposals aim to rationalize the sometimes haphazard way departments have grown over the years and to improve communication among them, said the Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi.
Within the new congregation for justice and charity would be an important new sector for the environment and how it affects people, a sign that the church knows it must show "a serious and consistent commitment" to the issue, Lombardi said.
Francis, who has said he believes global warming is "mostly" man-made, is planning a major encyclical on the environment and human ecology that has thrilled environmentalists and alarmed climate change deniers.