From time to time, you'll hear of some really tradition-heavy or hermeneutic-of-continuity-ey (spelling deliberate) statement from the Pontiff.
Last year saw two, both of which I thought were heartening and are helpfully collected here.
The first is a big salute to the Council of Trent--and in Latin, no less!
The second is to an Italian cleric and historian of the 21st ecumenical council, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto.
Now, from what I've been told, the Archbishop's book is not so much a narrative history as a historiographical answer to the so-called "Bologna School," which interprets the most recent ecumenical council as a novus ordo seculorum, most definitely from a "hermeneutic of rupture." Still, Archbishop Marchetto's work is reputedly a solid, if not comprehensive, response to his Italian confreres.
[If you're looking for a fuller critical narrative of conciliar doings, here is a good place to start. Warning: de Mattei is one of those promethian neopelagian bats, so watch out for the cooties.]
Be that as it may, veteran Italian church correspondent Sandro Magister reported then that the Pope had fulsome praise for Archbishop Marchetto:
once told you, dear Archbishop Marchetto, and today I wish to repeat it,
that I consider you to be the best interpreter of the Second Vatican
Council. I know that this is a gift from God, but I also know that you
made it bear fruit. I am grateful to you for all the good that you do
for us with your witness of love for the Church and I ask the Lord that
he reward it abundantly.
OK, interesting. Good, even.
What, Mr. Negative?!
Alas, earlier this week, Magister reported that the Pope has appointed the current dean of the Bolognae (Editor: roll with it), Friar Enzo Bianchi, as an adviser to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The Bolognae can be remarkably open-minded in their ecumenism, going to so far as to state that no councils after Nicaea II can be considered truly ecumenical:
For the “Bolognese” as well, in fact, only the councils that preceded
the schism between West and East are fully ecumenical, as can be seen in
their multi-volume edition of the “Conciliorum oecumenicorum
generaliumque decreta,” criticized precisely for this reason by
“L’Osservatore Romano” of June 3, 2007 with an unsigned official note
attributed to Walter Brandmüller, today a cardinal.
And Friar Bianchi hit the ground running after his appointment:
Immediately after the appointment, in an interview, Bianchi revealed his expectations in the matter of ecumenism:
believe that Pope Francis wants to reach the unity of Christians in
part by reforming the papacy. A papacy that is no longer feared, in the
words of ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew, with whom the pope shares a
bond of friendship. The reform of the papacy means a new balance between
synodality and primacy. This would help to create a new style of papal
primacy and of the governance of the bishops.”
Well, now, what's the problem? Didn't Pope St. JPII say something similar? No, not really. Ut Unum Sint invited other Christians to discuss how the primacy might be exercised in an ecumenical context (see paragraph 96). But the Pope was careful to preface that invitation by noting the authority of the papal office two paragraphs earlier:
With the power and the authority without which such an office would be
illusory, the Bishop of Rome must ensure the communion of all the Churches. For
this reason, he is the first servant of unity. This primacy is exercised on
various levels, including vigilance over the handing down of the Word, the
celebration of the Liturgy and the Sacraments, the Church's mission, discipline
and the Christian life.
It is the responsibility of the Successor of Peter to
recall the requirements of the common good of the Church, should anyone be tempted
to overlook it in the pursuit of personal interests. He has the duty to
admonish, to caution and to declare at times that this or that opinion being
circulated is irreconcilable with the unity of faith. When circumstances
require it, he speaks in the name of all the Pastors in communion with him. He
can also—under very specific conditions clearly laid down by the First Vatican
Council— declare ex cathedra that a certain doctrine belongs to the
deposit of faith. By thus bearing witness to the truth, he serves
So, no, not the same. Not at all. What Fr. Bianchi proposes assumes that "synodality" is the touchstone by which the papacy must reform itself--a finding which fits well with the worldview of the Bologna school first millenium uber alles ecclesiology--if not Catholicism. At least not Catholicism as it was understood all the way back in 2007.
The bottom line? The Pope gave a tradition-minded historian a nice compliment and one of his theological opponents a job. Which, in the long run, is more important? Especially given the Pope's hyper-focus on ecumenism. The PCPCU is going to be very busy.
There is an old bureaucratic proverb which says "personnel is policy," and it applies to ecclesiastical bureaucracies, too. You might not be much interested in church politics, but church politics has a way of percolating down to the pews.
If you're happy with head-pats and sweet nothings, you'll probably get a few. But that's not where the action is.
You'll start noticing eventually. Until then, keep squeezing off rounds at the messengers.