Pope Francis publishes the new Apostolic Constitution ‘In Ecclesiarum Communione’, which reorganizes the Vicariate of Rome by strengthening the role of the Episcopal Council and making the Pope, as Bishop of Rome, more present in the Vicariate’s decisions.
By Salvatore Cernuzio
The new Apostolic Constitution features greater collegiality and a increased presence of the Pope, as Bishop of Rome, in every important pastoral, administrative and economic decision of regarding the Diocese of Rome. The text calls for the creation of new offices to supervise finances and misconduct, while the term of office for personnel in managerial positions is set at five years, extendable for only one other five-year period. These are all new features introduced by “In Ecclesiarum Communione,” the new apostolic constitution published today that abrogates the previous “Ecclesia in Urbe” of 1988 by John Paul II and reorganises the Vicariate’s functions.
The Constitution comes into effect on 31 January 2023 and begins with a extensive introduction by Pope Francis who offers a profound reflection on his diocese, Rome. He recalls its importance from an ecclesial point of view, but also the challenges of the people who live there and the activities that can assist the most fragile social groups. The second part then lists 45 articles, reflecting much of the previous Constitution, while introducing several new items. Starting with the role of the Cardinal Vicar, defined ‘auxiliary’ for the first time, and the more prominent role of the Episcopal Council.
This reform follows in the wake of Praedicate Evangelium and has a precise objective: to give “evangelising and synodal impetus” back to the Vicariate of Rome, so that, as Pope Francis writes, it can be “an exemplary place of communion, dialogue and closeness, welcoming and transparent at the service of the renewal and pastoral growth of the Diocese of Rome.”
The Pope reiterates in the document how “the Church loses its credibility when it is filled with what is not essential to its mission or, worse, when its members, sometimes even those invested with ministerial authority, are a source of scandal with their behaviour unfaithful to the Gospel.” In fact, Francis lists “some of the most serious and urgent commitments” that call for pastoral action by the Vicariate. These include vigilance over economic management “so that it may be prudent and responsible” and “conducted consistently with the objective that justifies the possession of goods by the Church.”
In detailing the 45 articles of the Constitution, the Pope dwells on the hierarchical figures of the Vicariate: Cardinal Vicar, Vicegerent and auxiliary bishops. All, he writes, “are appointed by me for an indefinite period of time and cease from office by my decree.” The Vicar – as already established by Ecclesia in Urbe – continues to exercise “the episcopal ministry of magisterium, sanctification and pastoral government for the Diocese of Rome with the ordinary power of the Vicar” under the terms established by the Pope. The Cardinal Vicar, he continues, “will not undertake important initiatives or ones exceeding ordinary administration without first reporting to me.”Pope Francis reorganises Vicariate of Rome to be more collegial – Vatican News