Pope’s ex-chief of staff says ‘too early’ to judge Vatican reform

Cardinal Becciu

Perhaps Pope Francis’s most powerful aide for the last five years, who was named  cardinal last week, says it’s still “premature” and “too early” to judge the results of the pontiff’s much-ballyhooed reform of the Vatican.

“It’s still to early to judge the reform,” said Cardinal Angelo Becciu, to reporters.

“Many things have changed, things have been modified in discasteries, but we’re still searching to find the best path,” he said.

The state of Francis’s reform has been questioned lately by observers who note that aside from the consolidation of some pre-existing Vatican departments and the creation of some new ones, there’s been little tangible change in Vatican structures and operations. In the meantime, the Vatican’s traditional centers of power, especially the all-important Secretariat of State, appears to have consolidated its role rather than seeing it diminished or redefined.

Becciu, however, counseled patience. “It’s still too early, the work hasn’t been finished,” he said. “We’re working towards a [new] apostolic constitution that will bring everything together, giving a unified structure to the reform. So far we’ve had elements but not a unified idea.”

Becciu, 70, has served as the substitute, in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State since 2011, having been appointed to the role by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. During Francis’s papacy, there have been few matters in which Becciu has not been a key player, from a decision to cancel an external audit of Vatican finances to controversial negotiations with China over the appointment of bishops.

In his brief remarks, Becciu referred to both popes he worked under as men who “love the Church and desire to serve the Church.”

Becciu also had words of praise for his fellow Vatican personnel. “I experienced the beauty of working in the Secretariat of State and also the curia, among people who love the pope,” he said. “It’s a silent work, one often not understood or appreciated. They’re people who pass their lives in service to the Holy Father.”

On his two popes, Benedict and Francis, Becciu said they had “different personalities” but shared a gift for putting their collaborators at ease. In terms of “tough moments” he’s faced, he cited the Vatican leaks scandal, the resignation of Benedict XVI, and criticisms of both the curia and also Francis’s reforms.