On Friday Pope Francis began making stops at different departments of the Roman Curia – the first in series of visits. Today’s rounds included four different offices.
A Vatican official from one of the departments the Pope stopped in to during his May 22 round of visits told EWTN afterward that the pontiff gave them “general reflections about what our work entails.”
Francis also responded to some requests for clarification on matters of canon law, the official said. “It was a beautiful experience.”
The official, who preferred not to be named, said that he only found out the Pope was coming a few days ago.
In order, the departments Pope Francis visited today were the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences and the Pontifical Congregations for Catholic Education, Clergy and Institutes of Consecrated Life. All of the offices are in the same building.
The Roman Curia – which serves as the Vatican’s governing body – is broken up into different departments. It is composed of nine congregations, 11 pontifical councils, three tribunals, the Secretariat of State and three offices dedicated to organizing different areas of the Holy See – including the secretariat for the economy.
Many of the departments have their offices in Vatican-owned buildings on Via della Conciliazione – the broad street that leads to St. Peter’s Square – and Pius XII Square.
Each Vatican congregation is headed by a cardinal prefect, while presidents of the pontifical councils can be chaired by either a cardinal or archbishop, but never anyone below that rank.
Under the cardinals and archbishops of the dicasteries fall the ordinary of the dicastery, the secretary, a group of consulters, the undersecretary, the congress and finally the heads of specific offices and their officials.
Such visits to Curial dicasteries are not unusual for a Pope to do. During his pontificate, St. John Paul II visited the departments, and Benedict XVI also visited some, although not all.
The official who spoke with EWTN recalled how Pope Francis told them that he has wanted to visit the various dicasteries since the beginning of his pontificate, and made a resolution to do it this year.
After gathering in their department’s large conference room, the office members met with Pope Francis. The Pope stayed roughly and hour and a half before moving on.
“He gave us his reflections on his pastoral guidance what our work would entail, and then there were a couple of questions,” the official noted.
Although their encounter wasn’t really an “open session” due to the large number of people present, he said that it could have been that way in other, smaller departments.
Once he had spoken to the department as a whole, Pope Francis greeted each member individually. In his conversation with the Pope, the Vatican official said that he welcomed the pontiff to the department, and offered some “kind words” to him.
Before coming into the conference room, the Pope and his delegation met in the lobby and stopped by the department’s chapel to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
Offices previously visited by Pope Francis include that of the Synod of Bishops and the Secretariat of State. It is believed that Pope Francis will go to the Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts June 1.