In their latest round of meetings, Pope Francis' Council of Cardinals discussed several key topics related to episcopal conferences, the need to lower costs inside the Vatican, and efforts to speed up procedures dealing with cases of abuse.

This week's meetings took place Feb. 26-28 at the Vatican. All members were present except for Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, who is in Australia facing charges of past sexual abuse.

Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa from the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrived late due to weather. As usual, Pope Francis was present for all sessions apart from Wednesday morning, when he holds the weekly general audience.

According to a Feb. 28 Vatican communique, the Council of Cardinals — made up of nine prelates from around the world who advise the Pope on matters of Church governance and reform — focused specifically on the theological status of episcopal conferences.

The cardinals based their discussion on Evangelii Gaudium 32, which states that “Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

In this spirit, it was suggested that John Paul II's 1998 motu propio “Apostolos Suos” on the theological and judicial nature of episcopal conferences be re-read, thinking of “the healthy decentralization” of which Pope Francis often speaks.

Discussion also touched on human resources and keeping an eye on containing costs within the Vatican.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich spoke on the topic of human resources and presented the ongoing work of the Council for the Economy, which falls under the umbrella of the wider Secretariat for the Economy.

Specifically, the council is currently studying proposals to outline the skills of a “control-room” of-sorts for human resources.

According to the Vatican communique, Marx in his presentation also referred to the “positive progress” being made in the area of presenting the Vatican balance sheets, of maintaining costs and reducing the Holy See's deficit.

In this regard, he said the council has decided to draw up guidelines for the institutions of the Holy See, aimed at reducing cost.

Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski also spoke during the meeting about the progress of the third department of the Secretariat of State, which is tasked with managing the Pope's diplomatic corps, who are stationed throughout the world. The department, headed by Pawlowski, is named “Section for the Diplomatic Staff.”

Though he's not a member of the Pope's advisory council, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the dicastery for Integral Human Development, was also present to give an update on the progress of his office and its activities.

Specific mention was made of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the cardinals discussing different options to accelerate the process for handling cases of the sexual abuse of minors that come their way.

Other topics discussed were the Congregations for Oriental Churches and the Evangelization of Peoples.

The next round of meetings for the Council of Cardinals is set to take place in Rome April 23-25.

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