Francis charms as Curia braces for expected purge

Francis delivers first Angelus blessing

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis charmed tens of thousands gathered in St Peter’s Square for his first Angelus blessing Sunday as the pontiff mulled deep changes in the Curia government of the Church. “Buon giorno. After our first meeting on Wednesday I am happy to meet again and greet everyone on Sunday, the day of the Lord,” the Argentine pontiff said from the window of the papal apartment overlooking the square. Francis raised a chortle from the crowd when he referred to a book by German cardinal Kasper. “You mustn’t think I am doing advertising for the cardinal’s books,” he added. In his address for the fifth Sunday of Lent Francis recalled again the importance of compassion and how Jesus had saved the woman condemned to being stoned to death for adultery. “Compassion changes everything, a little compassion makes the world less cold,” the pope said before concluding his remarks by again stressing the importance of confession as Easter approaches, saying that “God never tires of pardoning us but we often tire of asking for forgiveness.” On Saturday the pope ordered that all members of the Roman Curia, the central Government of the Church, should temporarily remain in their jobs. Vatican watchers said this indicated Francis is planning to introduce wide ranging changes in the senior management of the Curia, almost certainly including the replacement of Benedict’s Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. A terse statement by the Vatican announcing the temporary status of the Curia members contrasted sharply with the start of Benedict and Pope John Paul II’s pontificates in which the previous secretaries of state almost immediately were reconfirmed in their jobs together with all other heads of the top Vatican departments or ministries. jp