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Vatican City, Jan 8, 2021 / 04:40 pm (CNA).- For the first time, the Disciplinary Commission of the Roman Curia will be presided by a layperson after Pope Francis appointed professor Vincenzo Buonomo, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University. And it is possible that more laypersons will be appointed for other Vatican positions.

The Commission is composed of a president and six members. Established by St. John Paul II in 1981, the Commission rules whether an administrative sanction – i.e., suspension or firing – can be imposed on a Roman Curia official is pertinent or not.

Pope Francis also appointed two new members of the Commission: Monsignor Alejandro W. Bunge, president of the Labor Office of the Apostolic See, known by the Italian acronym ULSA; and Mr. Maximino Caballero Ledo, General Secretary of the Secretariat for the Economy.

The appointment of professor Buonomo, a layperson, as a president is unprecedented. According to the Commission’s Statutes, issued in 2016, the president of the Commission must be a cardinal or at least a bishop. The statutes have a five-year validity. Until now, the Commission had five presidents: three cardinals, an archbishop, and a bishop. The last president was Bishop Giorgio Corbellini, who was also president of the ULSA. Corbellini died in November 2019, leaving the position open.

Article 4 of the Statutes read that “the Commission is composed by a Cardinal or Bishop president and other six members, both laymen and clergy, appointed for a five-year term by the Pontiff.”

Article 4 also states that the Vatican Secretariat of State’s adviser and the secretary of the administrative section of the Secretariat for the Economy are members de iure (officially sanctioned) of the same Commission. That means that also Monsignor Luigi Cona, is a member of the Commission.

The other Commission members are Bishop Juan Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and Flaminia Giovannelli, undersecretary emeritus of the Dicastery for the Service to the Integral Human Development. Vincenzo Buonomo was also a member before being elevated to the chairmanship of the Commission. Pope Francis may now appoint another member of the Commission.

Buonomo has garnered growing attention during the years. Pope Francis called him in 2018 to be the first lay rector of the Pontifical Lateran University. Since he became the rector, Pope Francis has paid a visit to the university twice.

Since 2014, Buonomo is also a counselor of the Vatican City State Administration and was part of the committee that drafted the first Vatican law on procurements, issued in July 2020.

A professor in the Pontifical Lateran University since 1984, Buonomo began his collaboration with the Vatican Secretariat of State during the 1980s.

Since 2007, Buonomo is office chief of the Vatican’s delegation to the U.N. Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO,) where he has served since 1993.

In 2015, he was a member of the Secretariat of State’s working group for the drafting of the Holy See Periodic Reports to the U.N. Committees on the Rights of Children, on Racial discrimination, and Against Torture.

The appointment of Buonomo as president of the Commission is certainly a sign of trust by Pope Francis. Pope Francis is also continuing his policy of appointing laypeople as Curia top-officials.

In the last year, Pope Francis appointed Maximino Caballero Ledo as general secretary of the Secretariat for the Economy and Fabio Gasperini as general secretary of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA, a sort of Vatican central bank). In 2018, Pope Francis appointed another layperson, Paolo Ruffini, as prefect of the Dicastery of Communication.

There are rumors that Pope Francis might also choose a layperson as general secretary of the Vatican City State Administration. The current general secretary, Bishop Fernando Vergez Alzaga, already turned 75, the official retirement age.