Vatican City: Pope Francis is opening the most critical week of his year-old papacy: Two commissions of inquiry on Vatican finance will report their recommendations for reform and preparations get underway for a summit on family issues that will deal with the widespread rejection by Catholics of church teaching on contraception, divorce and gay unions.
In between, Francis will preside over his first ceremony to formally welcome 19 new cardinals into the elite club of churchmen who will eventually elect his successor.
In typical Francis style, the new cardinals hail from some of the poorest places on earth, including Haiti, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
The first half of Francis` busy week will be devoted to the third meeting of his "Group of Eight" advisers, the senior cardinals representing every continent who Francis appointed to help him govern the church and overhaul the antiquated and inefficient Vatican bureaucracy.
They are due to hear recommendations from two panels of experts on reforming the troubled Vatican bank and rationalising the Holy See`s overall financial and administrative structures.
Francis was elected with a mandate to reform the Roman Curia, as the Holy See administration is known, to make it more responsive to the needs of the 21st-century Catholic Church.
He wants to make the curia more of a support to bishops trying to spread the faith rather than an obstacle. He has made bureaucratic reform his first-year priority, paying special attention to the scandal-marred Vatican bank, long accused by Italian authorities as being an off-shore tax haven for well-connected Italians and, more recently, a place where money could be laundered.
On the eve of the G8 meeting, the head of the Vatican bank pleaded his case to Francis` hometown newspaper, telling Argentina`s La Nacion daily that his process of reform hadn`t yielded any "systematic violations" of the Vatican`s anti-money laundering laws but just some "black sheep."
One of those black sheep is Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, an accountant in the Vatican`s finance ministry who is currently on trial for allegedly trying to smuggle 20,000 euro (USD 26,000) from Switzerland to Italy, and is also accused in another case of using his Vatican bank accounts to launder money.
The bank`s top two managers resigned in July after Scarano was arrested.
"We`re in a crucial moment," the bank president, Ernst Von Freyberg, told La Nacion. "The (bank) commission will hand in its report in the coming days, as will the commission on the economic affairs, and then the Holy Father will decide what to do."