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Will Vatican officials face term limits?

July 30, 2015 | posted by Catholic News Agency

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Will Vatican officials face term limits? 

A fixed term mandate for Vatican officials serving in the Roman Curia was among recent proposals for the Vatican's ongoing reform process, and will likely be discussed at the Sept. 14-16 meeting of the Council of Cardinals.

It's still unclear whether the fixed term mandate refers to all Vatican officials -- that is, those who hold an office of the Roman Curia – or if it would just apply to the clergy.

According to the prominent Italian journalist Marco Tosatti, “the idea is to give a term -- a five year term, to be eventually renewed for another five year term – to the mandate of the Curia officials, which are the priests who make up the bulk of the jobs in the various Congregations and Pontifical Councils.”

So if a priest is called to serve in the Roman Curia, he would return to his home parish after five years. On the other hand, there are many lay Vatican officials: would the fixed term mandate apply to them as well?

According to data, out of the nearly 2,700 people working in the Holy See, there are 780 priests, 330 religious brothers and sisters and 1,600 lay people.

Lay people are close to double the number of priests serving in the Holy See. If the five year mandate is applied to them, what will be their fate? How would they provide for their families?

“These are some of the critical issues of the proposal. Another one is that people continually on the move would have no time to develop the special expertise which has characterized the Holy See personnel until now,” a source working within a Vatican congregation told CNA July 29.

However, the fixed term mandate would not apply to diplomatic ranks, which would continue with the current system.

The Holy See diplomatic Corp is nurtured in the Ecclesiastical Academy -- the Vatican 'school for ambassadors' of sorts. After getting their diploma, the future nuncios are sent to serve with different ranks at Holy See nunciatures all over the world.

If the papal ambassadors-in-training go all the way, they usually receive the rank of a papal nuncio after some 16-17 years of diplomatic service. However, the pope may appoint as papal nuncio whoever he wants.

Among the most known nuncios who did not attend the Ecclesiastic Academy is the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, who in 1996 was elevated to the rank of nuncio from his previous post of Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants.

The current nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Charles J. Brown, is also among those who did not attend the academy. Before his selection as a Vatican ambassador, Brown had previously served as an official in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.