The reform of the Chapter of St. Peter's Basilica has just been approved by Pope Francis: management powers are almost non-existent and there will be a drastic reduction in masses. The hour of lean times has sounded for one of the most venerable institutions of the Vatican.
After the abrogation of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum last July, which, in the eyes of many, seems be the formal mark of the liquidation of the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI, it is the reform of the Chapter of St. Peters that the current Roman Pontiff now intends to accelerate.
This venerable institution was created in 1043 by Pope St. Leo IX, with the aim of guaranteeing regular prayer in St. Peter's Basilica and assisting the successor of Peter in the management of the heritage assets donated to the papacy, including real estate.
From the pontificate of Pope Eugene IV (1145-1153), the chapter was gradually transformed into an autonomous community, passing from a monastic structure to a canonical structure, whence the name of canon that its members then took.
But today, the Chapter of St. Peter is against him for being deemed too little open to the spirit of reform.
The first setback was last March when the Secretariat of State published a circular which limits individual masses in the Vatican Basilica being said to between seven and nine o'clock in the morning, and only on two altars.
The traditional Mass has been, for its part, relegated to the Pauline Chapel.
In Rome, more than one Vaticanist sees it as the signature of Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, a close friend of Pope Francis, member of the famous St. Gallen group who particularly stood out for his activity during of the 2013 conclave.
In order to apply the innovations justified in the name of “enhancing the liturgical and pastoral service of the canons in the basilica,” the Chapter had to be reorganized.
At the start of the last Holy Week, Cardinal Comastri gave way to a Franciscan, Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, guardian of the Sacred Convent of Assisi, a man committed to reforms.
But since August 28, it is the chapter itself that has been shaken up, the Argentinian Pope having approved a series of standards that must come into force on October 1, for a period of one year, while the legal statutes of the Chapter are revised.
Under the pretext of reducing the Chapter's expenses, its financial management is being placed under the tutelage of the Fabric of St. Peter, the office which manages the Vatican basilica, which was restructured last March.
From now on, the members of the Chapter will each have their own function: either that of a canon proper, in order to ensure “the service of liturgical and pastoral animation” of the basilica, or that of coadjutor.
The coadjutors “will work on liturgical celebrations, pastoral works, and other tasks which may be entrusted to them by the archpriest together with the chapter.”
Pope Francis has also transferred a significant part of the economic activities of the Chapter, the Treasury Museum, and the sale of religious objects, to the management of the Fabric of St. Peter.
The chapter will continue to administer the few real estate and financial assets still under its management: knowing that a large part of its patrimony has already been transferred under the Patrimony Administration of the Apostolic See (APSA).
Finally, as planned, the reform of the Chapter is accompanied by that of the liturgical agenda of the basilica. Because, since the drastic limitation of private masses in the upper part of the basilica last March, Cardinal Mauro Gambetti wants to go further.
The new Archpriest, animated by a “Franciscan” spirit - understood in the sense of impoverishment, of a general collapse, and not in that of spiritual poverty – wants there to be only two concelebrations per day, in Italian, broadcast by the Vatican communications service.