The following comes from an Oct. 28 story in the Vatican Insider (La Stampa).

The Australian cardinal George Pell, one of the eight cardinals that Pope Francis has chosen to advise him, agreed to talk about his experience of their historic meeting (October 1-3) with the Holy Father on the understanding that “the only substantial information” available about that gathering is what Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, gave to the media. “Anything that I might say will be peripheral to that”, he said; and “as one of the Pope’s councilors, I see that part of my task is to defend and explain the Holy Father, to support him in his role”.

On that basis, I interviewed him in Rome, October 17, five days after Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior-General of the Society of Saint Pius X, speaking in Kansas City, had launched a harsh attack on Pope Francis. I began by asking him to comment on that attack.

Bishop Fellay has denounced Pope Francis as “a genuine modernist”, and charged that while the Church was “a disaster” before he was elected, he is making it “10,000 times worse”. What do you say to this?
To put it politely, I think that’s absolute rubbish!  Francis said he’s a loyal son of the Church, and his record shows that. He’s very, very concerned for the day-to-day life of the people, and for those who are suffering, those not well off and those in difficult situations. He’s a completely faithful exponent of Christ’s teaching and the Church’s tradition.

So people like Fellay have completely misread Pope Francis?
Yes, it is a gigantic misreading! In actual fact, the Lefebvrists – many of them – have misread the situation for decades. It was to Benedict’s great credit that he tried to reconcile with them, but they didn’t respond. Now the Church today accepts the Second Vatican Council. You don’t have to accept every jot and tittle of it, but it is part of Church’s life now, there’s no way around that.

An Argentinean theologian, Father Carlos Galli, recently told me that he sees “the elder brother syndrome” emerging in the Church as Pope Francis goes out more and more to meet the prodigal sons. What do you say to that?
Well I think it is up to us elder-brothers, unlike the elder-brother in the parable, to get behind the father as he goes to meet the prodigal son.  It’s our task to help him in that, to defend him.

You and the other seven cardinal advisors had an unprecedented opportunity to sit and discuss with the Pope for three days on matters relating to the governance of the universal Church and the reform of the Roman Curia. What did it feel like being in that meeting?
I think we were all very much aware of the significance of the occasion. Nobody seems to know how long ago it is since a Pope has had such a regular group of advisors outside the Roman Curia, or what you might call a regular consistory.

In the Council of 8 Cardinals, and also in the Council of the Synod of Bishops of which I am also a member, the discussions were substantial, frank and friendly. The Pope didn’t have a great deal to say but he is a very good listener. He asked people to speak freely, he wanted us to speak our mind. He doesn’t like flattery, and I suspect he sees through it quite efficiently.  We didn’t waste time; the discussions were useful and substantial, and he didn’t take offense at anything we said.

We are councilors. We are there to offer advice, and he is certainly free to accept, reject or modify it. We all realize this and we appreciate the opportunity that the Holy Father has given to us cardinals from all around the Church. I think all this will be for the long-term benefit of the Church. I don’t think it is good for popes to be isolated. Our terms of reference are brief, not highly developed. We are to talk about the governance of the universal Church and the reform of the Roman Curia. Obviously other things will come up; he mentioned the topic of marriage and family life.


The 8 Cardinals will have another meeting with Pope Francis on December 3-5, and again in February 2014. One gets the impression that the Pope is pushing ahead to reach a rapid conclusion at least on the reform of the Roman Curia.  Is that a correct read?
I think that’s a reasonable expectation, whether it will work out like that I don’t know. I think we’ll probably meet every two months, at least until the middle of next year. It’s no secret that the cardinals in the pre-conclave meetings wanted very significant improvements in the life of the Roman Curia, and I believe that Pope Francis is completely committed to that….

To read the entire interview, click here.