According to Vatican Insider, Pope Francis has made his first move in terms of Curia appointments. Today it was announced that the Holy Father named 59-year-old Spanish native Father Jose Rodriguez Carballo as Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated life and the Societies of Apostolic Life (formerly known as ‘The Congregation for Religious’).
Some Vatican experts have predicted that Pope Francis would shake up the Curia, so to speak, by not continuing the terms of those already holding positions there, but instead would make new appointments to the various offices. In that light, this surprise is no surprise. However, what also is a surprise that’s not a surprise (at least to me) is that the Pope has appointed – for the very first time – the head of a religious order to a Curia office. Father Carballo is…. ready for this?… the Minister General (i.e., head) of the largest group of the Franciscan family – the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), which has some 15,000 friars in 113 countries.
This appointment has surprised many because, they say, Father Carballo is head of a religious order and that’s a first (Pope Francis has a way of striking firsts, doesn’t he?). What folks are politely not surprised at (or at least not saying they’re surprised at) is that the religious order head appointed is a Franciscan and not the head of the Pope’s own order – Jesuit.
This isn’t surprising to me for three reasons.
1. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose the name Francis upon his election as Pope.
2. The Holy Father has said that he wants a “poor Church and for the poor.” Where in the Church is that better modeled than in the Franciscan order?
3. Pope Francis has proven that he is a man of carefully weighed, purposeful decisions. He doesn’t seem to be the type to decide things as a result of external pressure or based on affiliations and alliances – even to his own order.
A quick disclaimer here: Do not take my message as a slight to the Jesuit order, nor as a suggestion that other orders to not exemplify poverty or worthiness.
What this also tells me is that I – and perhaps all of us – should be far more attentive to Pope Francis’ words, because he doesn’t speak just to hear himself talking. There’s a certain transparency that makes me want to pay close attention to all that he says and does.