VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis convened his cardinal advisers to chart the reform of the Vatican bureaucracy Tuesday after acknowledging resistance to his changes but saying he welcomes the debate and is nevertheless undeterred.
It's the seventh time the group of nine cardinals, representing five continents and the Vatican, have met to plot a revamp of the Vatican administration, which Francis has said needs to be overhauled to make it more efficient and responsive to today's church.
In an interview with Argentina's La Nacion newspaper ahead of the meetings, Francis acknowledged that internal resistance to his changes "is now evident."
But he said opposition is healthy. "That is a good sign for me, getting the resistance out into the open, no stealthy mumbling when there is disagreement," he said in the interview published Sunday.
The reforms wouldn't be completed in 2015 and that "spiritual reform" of Vatican personnel was a longer-term concern, he said.
Already, Francis has created a Secretariat for the Economy to oversee all Vatican finances and make them more efficient, transparent and accountable to international standards. Proposals for streamlining the bureaucracy include merging a handful of pontifical councils responsible for laity, families, migrants and health care workers, as well as justice issues and charity, into two congregations for laity and charity.
Francis has also made a handful of eyebrow-raising personnel moves, replacing the arch-conservative supreme court justice Cardinal Leo Burke and recently removing the head of the Swiss Guards.
Francis defended both decisions. He said Burke, who has been one of Francis' harshest critics, accepted and "I even think he liked" his offer to take over as spiritual adviser for the Knights of Malta. He denied the Swiss Guard commander was removed because he was too rigid, saying merely that his tenure was up and that it was time for "renewal" in the world's smallest army.
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