The Council of Cardinals pondered a 'more systematic' way to involve lay people in appointments, a Vatican spokesman said

Pope Francis and members of his international Council of Cardinals have discussed the possibility of allowing local bishops rather than the Vatican decide on whether permanent deacons may be permitted to marry or be ordained as priests.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said it was “what the Pope calls a ‘healthy decentralisation’.”

Briefing journalists on the council’s meeting this week, Burke said the cardinals and Pope looked specifically at the possibility of allowing bishops to determine whether a permanent deacon who is widowed can remarry or whether a permanent deacon who is unmarried or widowed can be ordained to the priesthood without having to “wait for a decision to be made in Rome” as is the current rule.

Such decisions regarding permanent deacons are now handled at the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, but could pass to the local bishops’ conference, Burke told journalists. The council of cardinals advising the Pope on Church governance also discussed proposals to broaden the participation of lay people and members of religious orders in the selection of new bishops.

“It is something that already exists, but they want to do it in a more systematic, more extensive way,” Burke said.

As Pope Francis and his international body of cardinal advisers continue looking at a reorganisation of the Roman Curia, the June meeting also included a discussion of the proposed new descriptions of the work of the offices dealing with the evangelisation of peoples, Eastern churches, interreligious dialogue and legislative texts.

The Council of Cardinals will meet again on September 11-13. Its members are: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Cardinal George Pell, head of the Secretariat of the Economy; and Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

Due to undergoing minor surgery on his foot, Cardinal O’Malley was unable to attend the June meeting.