Sunday November 29th, 2015 12:19AM

Pope urges reform, wants church with modern spirit

By The Associated Press
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis opened a landmark meeting Tuesday on reforming the Catholic Church, saying he wants a missionary church with a modern spirit that gives hope to the poor, the young and the elderly like his namesake St. Francis did.

Francis convened his own parallel cabinet of eight cardinals from around the globe for three days of brainstorming on revamping the Vatican bureaucracy and other reforms. The move fulfills a key mandate of the cardinals who elected him pope to involve local church leaders in making decisions about the universal church.

On the same day the meetings started, Rome daily La Repubblica published a lengthy interview with Francis, his second in as many weeks. For someone who has said he abhors giving interviews, Francis has made himself remarkably amenable to taking questions about his faith and vision for the church.

In the interview, Francis denounced the "Vatican-centric" nature of the Holy See administration and acknowledged that popes past had been infatuated with the pomp of the Vatican and its "courtesans."

The pope also explained his affinity for his namesake St. Francis, whose tomb he will visit on Friday during a visit to Assisi, the hilltop town where St. Francis preached his gospel of poverty and caring for the most destitute.

Francis said he wanted a missionary church like that sought by St. Francis: "We need to give hope to young people, help the aged and open ourselves toward the future and spread love."

He said the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that brought the church into the modern world, had promised such an opening to people of other faiths and non-believers, but that the church hadn't made progress since then.

"I have the humility and ambition to do so," he said.

The agenda of the cardinal cabinet meetings is unknown, but one issue is certain to be discussed: overhauling the Vatican bureaucracy, an antiquated administration that is universally disparaged as unhelpful to both the pope and the bishops it's designed to serve.

The scandal over leaked documents last year showed the Vatican bureaucracy to be a dysfunctional warren of political infighting and turf battles, fueling calls for reform from the cardinals who elected Francis pope.

Beyond the scandal, local church leaders have long bemoaned that Vatican courts take years to process requests for annulments and that Vatican offices are simply unresponsive to requests from them and the lay faithful.

Francis himself is a critic: Just this weekend he told the Vatican police force that it was their job to stop the "devil" from creating internal wars through Vatican employees spreading gossip.

"It's a war that you don't fight with weapons but with your tongue," he said.

The Vatican bureaucracy is organized according to a 1988 document "Pastor Bonus," which metes out the work and jurisdictions of the congregations, councils, courts and other offices that make up the governance of the church. Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, who heads the pope's advisory commission, said the planned reform won't just make changes to the document here and there.

"No, that constitution is over," he told the Catholic channel Salt and Light Television. "Now it's something different. We need to write something different. But it's not going to take one month or two months."

Indeed, no decisions are expected this week from the talks, and the pope has said reform takes time.

In fact, another Vatican reform is taking its own, separate course.

On Tuesday, the scandal-plagued Vatican bank issued its first-ever annual report in another step toward showing greater financial transparency. The Institute for Religious Works reported a profit of 86.6 million ($116.95 million) in 2012, a four-fold improvement over 2011.

Francis has appointed a commission of inquiry to look into the bank's legal structure and activities, one of the many moves he has taken to get a handle on the Vatican's murky finances.

Such decisiveness comes despite having been "invaded by anxiety" in the moments after he was elected. In the interview with Repubblica, Francis said after the shock of the election, he immediately excused himself from the Sistine Chapel, closed his eyes in a small room off to the side and tried to relax.

"At a certain point, a great light invaded me, it lasted a moment but it seemed very long to me," he told Repubblica's editor. "Then it disappeared and I got up."

He went back into the room where he signed the document accepting the job and headed out onto the loggia of St. Peter's Square to be introduced to the world.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Standoff at Planned Parenthood ends with suspect's arrest; 3 killed, 9 wounded
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A gunman who opened fire inside a Planned Parenthood clinic was arrested Friday after engaging in gun battles with authorities during an hourslong standoff that killed t...
1:13AM ( 23 hours ago )
White House undergoes Thanksgiving Day lockdown after man draped in American flag jumps fence
WASHINGTON (AP) — A man draped in an American flag climbed over the fence at the White House on Thursday, prompting a lockdown as the first family celebrated Thanksgiving.The man was immediately appre...
10:11PM ( 2 days ago )
Obama grants reprieve to turkeys 'Honest' and 'Abe' during White House ceremony
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama spared two turkeys named for one of the nation's most admired presidents, continuing a White House tradition that provides a refreshing sense of amusement and...
9:18PM ( 3 days ago )
The Latest: UN Security Council strongly condemns 'horrifying' attack in Mali, urges probe
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The latest on the attack on a hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako. (All times local):___4:55 a.m.The U.N. Security Council is condemning "the horrifying terrorist attack" at the...
10:58PM ( 1 week ago )
World leaders vow vigorous response to Paris terror spree, but little indication of next steps
ANTALYA, Turkey (AP) — World leaders vowed a vigorous response to the Islamic State group's terror spree in Paris as they opened a two-day meeting in Turkey on Sunday, with President Barack Obama call...
2:14PM ( 1 week ago )