This is the first time that the Pope has mentioned, in such a precise way, the future apostolic constitution on the reform of the Church, which should be promulgated at the end of 2021.
Three passages of the interview granted by the Roman Pontiff to Spanish radio COPE, on September 1, 2021, are devoted to the future document which will eventually replace the Pastor Bonus constitution, signed by Pope John Paul II on June 28, 1988.
The Pope confirms the name of the future document: “with regard to the apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium, which is in the process of being drawn up, they are at the last stage which for me is that of rereading; I have to reread it, word for word, before signing it,” he reveals.
During the interview, the Argentine pontiff made the assurance that the future text “will not present anything new compared to what we have seen so far.”
“At most a few details,” adds Peter's successor, “some changes concerning the merger of dicasteries, or the creation of two or three additional dicasteries: for example, Education will join Culture; Propaganda fide will join the New Evangelization.”
More interesting still, the explicit confirmation that the current reform of the Church is part of an agenda that was programmed and decided before the 2013 election, by a certain number of cardinals: “the reform is what the cardinals wanted from the conclave of March 2013,” insists Francis.
“I did not invent anything,” adds the Pope, “my action since the beginning of the pontificate consists in achieving what we, the cardinals, had requested in the pre-conclave meetings for the future pope: ‘the next pope will have to do this, this and that.’”
“And that is what I have started to implement. I think there are still various things to be done, but there is no invention on my part: I obey what was decided at the time.”
The pope argues that some electors, who had sided with the reformers, would not have taken the full measure of the consequences of their commitment: “perhaps some did not realize the significance of what they were saying, or did not imagine the consequences, as it is true that certain themes are disturbing.”
"But there is no originality on my side in the plan implemented,” emphasizes the pontiff, who specifies that the reform which is taking shape “sums up what we cardinals were saying at the time.” If one had to define the line which presided over his election, the Sovereign Pontiff sums it up with the exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which “takes up what had been expressed by the cardinals.”
Therefore, the fact of making the pastoral dimension prevail over the rest, and of sending doctrine to the dungeons of the magisterium, seems to be at the heart of the program which sealed the result of the 2013 election, by the very admission of the current Roman pontiff.
The word “capitulation” can refer to a “convention regulating certain privileges and duties, negotiated at the end of a discussion or a confrontation.” It is particularly refers to the conditions that the electors, during the Empire's vacancy, offered to whomever was to be elected Emperor, and which he had to sign before his election.
The term was adopted for the election of the popes. In this sense, capitulation is an act drawn up by the college of cardinals during a conclave. Usually, the text was prepared before the first ballot and all cardinals had to swear to respect the text in the event of an election.
Between the 14th and 17th centuries, the history of the Church records about 15 capitulations which had various outcomes.
In the light of this known historical phenomenon, it is still astonishing to read the Pope's conclusion: “one thing remains clear: the reform will implement nothing other than what the cardinals had previously decided, what we asked at the pre-conclave, and which is now being realized and seen in broad daylight.”