Pope picks cardinals to advise on Vatican reform

Pope Francis meets senior clergymen on St Peter's Square, 31 March
Image caption Pope Francis is seen here meeting senior clergymen on St Peter's Square last month

The Catholic Church's new leader has appointed a group of top churchmen to advise him on how to reform the Vatican's often arcane bureaucracy.

Pope Francis chose eight cardinals and a bishop who between them represent nearly every continent, and only one of whom is currently a Vatican official.

The bureaucracy, or Curia, has been blamed for the Church's hesitant response to sex abuse and other crises.

It is nearly 50 years since the Vatican's last major reforms.

The cardinals who elected Pope Francis last month were strongly critical about basic failings of the Curia under Pope Emeritus Benedict, the BBC's David Willey reports from Rome.

The cardinals include two Europeans (from Italy and Germany), two from Latin America (Chile and Honduras), one from the US, one from Asia (India), one African and one Australian. An Italian bishop will act as secretary.

Announcing the appointments, the Vatican said the pontiff had got the idea of forming the advisory body from meetings ahead of his election by cardinals last month.

Pope Paul VI undertook the last major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy in 1967.

The new group is to have its first meeting on 1-3 October.

Earlier this week Pope Francis met personally all 300 staff members of the Vatican's secretariat of state, the body responsible for carrying out Church policies.

Some radical reforms are expected soon, although the Pope is moving cautiously given the complexity and sensitivity of Church government, our correspondent says.

Scandals have included clerical sexual abuse, financial problems at the Vatican bank and the theft of documents from Benedict's desk.

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