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Dances With Wolves, Vatican Edition

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In the first six months of Pope Francis’s pontificate, a few things have become clear. First, the former Cardinal Bergoglio is a tireless advocate for the poor and marginalized, having shown solidarity through the witness of his simple lifestyle. He has, for example, decided to eschew the baroque excess of the traditional papal apartments in favor of the more modest accommodations of nearby Domus Santa Marta.

Second, Francis, taking his cues from Benedict XVI and members of the College of Cardinals, is intent on reforming the Roman curia. His modus operandi thus far indicates that he wants a reform of the Church’s finances, bureaucracy, and old-boy network, including the long entrenched Lavender Mafia. “In the curia there is talk of a gay lobby. And it is true. It’s there. Let’s see what we can do,” the Pope said to a group of Latin American religious he received in audience on June 6.

Perhaps most distinguishing of all, Pope Francis has made it clear that he isn’t shy about doing whatever he feels is the right thing for the Church and for the world — despite his Vatican handlers. In an interview earlier this summer, the Holy Father told Argentine journalist Jorge Milia that “here [in the Vatican] there are many ‘masters’ [padroni] of the Pope, and with a lot of seniority in years of service.” He explained to Milia that every change he’s introduced so far has taken him great effort because of the parallel powers that exist in the Vatican. His goal is to avoid becoming a prisoner of his secretaries. He wants to be in control of his own schedule and, most importantly, he doesn’t want to be kept in the dark. This is another reason Pope Francis decided to reside at Domus Santa Marta.

Ironically, Domus Santa Marta is where Cardinal Bergoglio got to know and appreciate Msgr. Battista Ricca, the priest Francis appointed on June 15 to serve as his personal representative to the scandal-ridden Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) — the Vatican “bank.” For the past year, Ricca has served as director of the Domus Santa Marta, where he was brought into regular contact with Bergoglio, before and after the conclave. The appointment was intended to place a trusted person inside the IOR for the express purpose of cleaning house.

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