Pope Francis gestures as he leads his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 27. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)
Pope Francis gestures as he leads his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 27. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis and the eight members of his international Council of Cardinals have begun their discussions on specific ways to reorganize the Roman Curia, looking first at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, the Vatican spokesman said.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the spokesman, told reporters Dec. 3, “They have to start somewhere,” but declined to provide more information about why the congregation responsible for liturgy was the first to be examined.

Spanish media have reported that Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, congregation prefect, will conclude his five-year appointment Dec. 9 and could be named the next archbishop of Madrid.

Pope Francis and the Council of Cardinals, named in April, held their first full meeting in October and looked primarily at the role of the Vatican secretary of state — since Archbishop Pietro Parolin was about to take over from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone — and revisions to the Synod of Bishops, since the synod office needed to release a preparatory document and questionnaire for the October 2014 gathering.

Father Lombardi, who spoke with council members during their morning break on the first day of the Dec. 3-5 meeting, said they emphasized that they were looking “in depth” at the curia and ways of restructuring it, not at “small touch ups.”

“The idea is not small or marginal changes, but that of a consistent revision of the apostolic constitution, to the point that a completely new constitution on the Roman Curia is expected,” he said.

After the cardinals’ first meeting in October, Father Lombardi had made a similar point, telling reporters the cardinals were moving clearly in the direction of an apostolic constitution to replace “Pastor Bonus.” The 1988 document was Blessed John Paul II’s constitution on the structure and responsibilities of the curia.

Father Lombardi said given the depth of what the council is trying to do, “I wouldn’t expect any conclusions in a brief period of time.”

When Pope Francis named the cardinals to advise him, Father Lombardi said, he did not choose them as continental representatives; however, their positions have allowed them to attend meetings of different bishops’ conferences and to continue collecting suggestions and concerns from bishops in their parts of the world.

While the council does not include the head of any Vatican congregation or council, he said, officials of the Roman Curia responded to an invitation to send their ideas and questions to the council.

The council members begin their day concelebrating an early morning Mass with Pope Francis in the chapel of his residence. After breakfast, the meetings take place from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. in a small room near the chapel. Pope Francis was expected to attend all the sessions, with the exception of the morning of Dec. 4 when he was scheduled to hold his weekly general audience.

The next meeting of the council with the pope is scheduled for Feb. 17-18, Father Lombardi said. The meeting will be right before a likely gathering of the entire College of Cardinals with Pope Francis on the eve of the Feb. 22 consistory at which Pope Francis plans to create new cardinals.

Pope Francis may use the gathering of the entire College of Cardinals as an opportunity to inform them of the council’s work that far, Father Lombardi said.

The pope has asked his eight cardinal advisers for counsel on the Vatican’s finances, which is likely to be the theme of the February meeting, Father Lombardi said.

The reorganization of the Roman Curia and improved relations between local bishops and the Vatican were key topics at the meetings of the College of Cardinals preceding the election of Pope Francis in March.

The eight members of his council are: Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; George Pell of Sydney; Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State; and Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

— By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service.