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Pope Francis tasks cardinals with studying reform of Catholic Church

By Hada Messia and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 10:59 AM EDT, Sat April 13, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pope Francis asks eight cardinals to look at ways to reform the Catholic Church
  • Vatican: The move follows suggestions made when cardinals met last month
  • The group includes U.S. Cardinal Sean O'Malley from Boston
  • The cardinals will hold their first meeting in October, the Vatican said

Rome (CNN) -- Pope Francis has appointed a group of eight cardinals from around the world to look into ways of reforming the Catholic Church, the Vatican said Saturday.

The group, which includes U.S. Cardinal Sean O'Malley from Boston, will examine ways to revise the Vatican constitution, Pastor Bonus, which sets the rules for running the Roman Curia, or church hierarchy.

The cardinals -- who come from North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe -- will first meet in October, the Vatican said.

The move follows on from suggestions made during the General Congregations, a series of meetings that brought together all the cardinals last month before they elected Francis as pope, the Vatican said.

The other seven cardinals are: Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Vatican City State governorate; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa from Chile; Oswald Gracias from India; Reinhard Marx from Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; George Pell from Australia; and Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga from Honduras.

An Italian bishop, Monsignor Marcello Semeraro, will act as secretary for the group.

Pope Francis has already been in touch with the chosen cardinals, the Vatican said.

The Catholic Church has faced calls for reform in the wake of scandals involving the sexual abuse of children by priests and allegations of corruption.

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, issuing guidance on behalf of the Vatican, said the group of cardinals was just that -- "not a commission, committee or council."

It "has no legislative power and its main function is to 'advise' the pope," he said. "The group will not in any way interfere in the normal functions of the Roman Curia, which helps the Pope in the daily governance of the Church."

The group's formation, exactly a month after Francis was elected, shows that the pope "listens attentively" to what the cardinals say, Rosica said.

The document the cardinals are studying is the Apostolic Constitution of Pope John Paul II, known as the Pastor Bonus, which was published in 1988.

CNN Vatican analyst John Allen, who's also a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, wrote that the news was "a signal that major reform may be on the horizon."

"Strikingly, there was only one member of the Roman Curia among the eight cardinals tapped to assist the pope. The rest come from various parts of the world, with at least one representing each continent," he said.

The group will be coordinated by Rodriguez, from Tegucigalpa, who speaks several languages and was himself seen as possible contender for the papacy.

In Honduras, "Rodriguez has long led the pack in terms of moral authority and social influence," Allen wrote in a profile ahead of the papal election, or conclave.

CNN's Hada Messia reported from Rome and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

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