An international federation of Catholic academics has proposed three key changes in the governance of the global church and is sending their recommendations to the group of cardinals advising Pope Francis on reform of the Vatican bureaucracy.
The proposals include moving some of the Vatican’s offices to the Kenyan capital Nairobi, Hong Kong or Beirut.
Pax Romana, considered one of the oldest movements of Catholic laypeople, makes the proposals in a white paper released online Tuesday.
Among the recommendations: a global meeting of laypeople partially tasked with helping the Vatican better include women in its highest positions, and moving at least some Vatican offices away from Rome to places around the world.
“As a witness and a sign of the universality of the Catholic mission and communion, we believe that certain curial offices could be relocated to major centres outside Europe,” the group writes in its three-page proposal.
“We recognize the positive logistical benefits of having all curial offices in the same location and the symbolic power of being in proximity to the Chair of St. Peter,” they state. “However, we believe that the relocation of some curial offices and/ or opening of satellite offices outside of Europe would be an important witness to the call and example of the Holy Father for the church to ‘go to the margins’ and for the church to become a ‘church that is poor and for the poor.’ ”
Organized as two separate groups for students and graduated academics, Pax Romana was founded in 1921 and is recognized as a lay association by the Vatican and has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
The group for academics, also known as the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, boasts members in more than 60 countries across five continents. Its members are the leaders of national associations of Catholic intellectuals and professionals.
Kevin Ahern, an assistant professor of theology at Manhattan College in New York who also serves as the academics’ group’s vice president for North America, said in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, a US Catholic paper, that his group hoped to “stimulate conversation” about possible Vatican reforms with their proposals.
“We’re hoping to have a conversation within our members and at the grassroots level … at this important time in the church,” Ahern said.
The cardinals’ group met for the first time Oct. 1-3 and is set to meet again Dec. 1-3 in Rome.