The members of the panel include Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Vatican city state administration — a key position that oversees, among other things, the Vatican's profit-making museums. The non-Vatican officials include Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, the retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo; Sean Patrick O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston; George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia; and Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who will serve as coordinator.
Monsignor Marcello Semeraro, bishop of Albano, Italy will be the panel secretary.
O'Malley, a Capuchin friar, has spent his career cleaning up churches from sexually abusive priests. Pell was outspoken in the run-up to the conclave about the need for reform in the bureaucracy. Maradiaga heads the church's Caritas International charity federation and is a rare moderate in the College of Cardinals who hasn't shied from criticizing the failings of the curia.
In theory, all popes have cardinals at their disposal to serve as advisers; advising the pope is a cardinal's main job aside from voting in conclaves. But neither John Paul nor Benedict made frequent use of their cardinal advisers, in part because they were so far away and numbered more than 200.
With such a small group of men hand-picked by the pope to specifically advise him in running the church and reforming the Vatican, it appears Francis wants a more collegial type of governance for his papacy. That also would meld with his reluctance to call himself pope in favor of his other main title, bishop of Rome.
That said, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is on record saying that when it comes time to actually making decisions, he is very much a loner.
"One can ask for advice but, in the end, one must decide alone," he said in the 2010 book "The Jesuit" written by his authorized biographer. Doing so means making mistakes, and Bergoglio acknowledged he had made plenty in his lifetime.
"That's why the important thing is to ask God," he said.
In the run-up to his election, cardinals were very clear that the status quo of the Vatican was untenable. Naming a commission of advisers including those most critical of the status quo indicates major reform could be on the horizon.
Some cardinals said they wanted term limits on Vatican jobs to prevent priests from becoming career bureaucrats. They wanted consolidated financial reports to remove the cloak of secrecy from the Vatican's murky finances. And they wanted regular Cabinet meetings where department heads actually talk to one another to make the Vatican a help to the church's evangelizing mission, not a hindrance.
They also said they wanted the Vatican to serve the bishops in the field, and not the other way around.
"It just doesn't work either very quickly or very efficiently," U.S. Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, said in an interview soon after Francis was elected. "Take marriage cases: People shouldn't have to be asked to wait three, four, five, six years to get a response" for a request for an annulment.
Aside from Saturday's announcement, Francis has made one Vatican appointment so far, naming a member of his namesake Franciscan order to the important No. 2 spot at the Vatican's congregation for religious orders.
His most eagerly-watched appointment has yet to come: that of the Vatican secretary of state, who runs the day-to-day administration of the Holy See. Currently, the position is held by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a 78-year-old canon lawyer whose administrative shortcomings have been blamed for many of the Vatican's current problems today.
George Weigel, a papal biographer who interviewed Bergoglio last May for his new book "Evangelical Catholicism," said Francis understands well the problems of the curia, saying he "displayed a shrewd, but not cynical, grasp of just what was wrong with the church's central bureaucratic machinery, and why."
"I think we can expect the new pope to lead the church in a purification and renewal of the episcopate, the priesthood, the religious life, and the curia, because he understands that scandal, corruption, and incompetence are impediments" to the mission of spreading the faith, Weigel wrote in a recent essay.
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