A. Introduction

1.  The service of authority in the Institute as expressed in the RL (cf. RL 102-108) remains fundamen­tally valid.

1.1  As the people of God we recognise only one authority, Christ (cf. RL 102).

1.2  In the Institute authority is a service that participates in that of Christ and is inspired by it (cfr. RL 102).

1.3  This service is rendered to the community and to each member to help them live their consecration and develop gifts and charisms in their missionary service (cfr. RL 102).

1.4  Authority in the community is a service of guidance, inspiration, discernment, unity, coordination, en­couragement and fraternal correction (cf. RL 102.2).

2.  The Institute by its missionary nature needs a clear point of reference to guarantee u­nity in diversity and contextualisation at circumscription and continental level. The principle of subsidiarity, codified in the RL and Directories, regulates the possible tensions between the two dimensions.

3.  Internationality has been a constituent characteristic of the Institute since its beginning. Authority has the task of evaluating the various gifts and harmonising the different sensibilities.

4.  The Institute is organised into Circumscriptions that enjoy enough autonomy to function locally with suitable choices and plans and to live their missionary service in full responsibility.

5.  The governmental structure of the Institute (General Direction and Circumscriptions, Secretariats, etc) calls for a full evaluation of subsidiarity (cf. RL 106) for the better guidance and animation of the Institute.

6.  The task of authority is also to guarantee conti­nuity in order to balance out the risks of fragmentation. Conti­nuity applies to:

6.1  The GD and the Circumscriptions who put into effect the plans drawn up and facilitate the task of whoever may take over.

6.2  The communities - to preserve stability in ministerial activity and historical memory.

B. Analysis of the situation

7.  A careful look at our Institute makes us take note of certain realities:

7.1  In general there has been an increase in internationality and interculturality. All Circumscriptions admit a need to internationalise themselves.

7.2  On the other hand, we note the decrease in personnel available for missionary service. Our commitments have not lessened, indeed, we have even created new Circumscriptions. Some of these find that they have too few confreres, others are having to face the fact of the significant ageing of their personnel, others again are engaged in the assistance of a large number of elderly and infirm confreres.

7.3  We also notice a weakening of the sense of belonging to, and identification with, the Institute and less availability in assuming those services that carry greater responsibility.

7.4  The service of authority in the more traditional sense is no longer accepted in a common way of thinking. We are in an era of growing democratization that underlines the participation of everyone in the decision-making pro­cess. Furthermore, we live in a period of strong individua­lism that calls for ability and leadership in those who exercise autho­rity.

7.5  On the other hand, the need for transparency and legal rectitude no longer permit us to face situations and decisions merely on the basis of good will.

8.  Emerging problems

8.1  In the exercise of authority within the Institute the consequences of these developments are noticeable. Present experience demonstrates how increasingly difficult it is to govern an Institute in continuous change, with numerous Circumscriptions and with a very centralised administration.

8.2  The current system for the assignment of personnel sometimes makes planning in the Circumscriptions very difficult.

8.3  The principle of subsidiarity, already affirmed in the RL, is little known and little practiced.

8.4  The Institute still needs a clear point of reference in order to safeguard its unity (cf. n. 115). The centralizat­ion of certain competences makes it possible to give greater impulse to the application of decisions and to offer help to Circumscriptions that for various reasons have few radical members.

8.5  Currently there are four General Secretariats and they are situated in Rome. Nevertheless, for the sectors of MA and EV greater contextualisation within local and continental realities is to be desired.

8.6  Continental and sub-continental realities have acquired  such substance and potential that common planning and coordination are now required. The need to contextualise pro­blems and solutions at the continental and Circumscription is growing, while at the same time the difficulty of the GC in animating the many Circumscriptions is also evident.

8.7  The high number of Circumscriptions (30), among which are some that are small (20-35 members), causes complications in general planning and presents a problem in guaranteeing the quality of essential services (leadership, formation, secretariats, etc).

8.8  The lack of continuity at the GC level has resulted in a weakening and at time even the interruption of the reform processes already under way.

C. Working premises

9.  The Institute needs a service of authority able to respond both to the problems emerging from the analysis of the present and to those expected to emerge in the foreseeable future.

10.  Inevitable processes to take into account:

10.1  In Society:

a. an increase in migration that results in the fragmentation of culture on the one hand and greater interculturality on the other;

b. a worsening of the economic divide between different social groups;

c. the acceleration of the processes of global transformation through the modern means of communication and inter-dependence which results from it;

d. the influence of postmodernism, above all as a kind of cultural fluidity that relativises certainties and basic values.

10.2  The Church:

a. an increase and consolidation in terms of numbers and leadership in the South of the world;

b. the continuity of its universal mission even if in the evolution of its understanding and metho­dology.

10.3  The Institute:

a. the numerical decrease and ageing of our personnel;

b. assistance for the elderly and infirm with appropriate structures to welcome them.

11.  Processes already active and not to be interrupted:

a. internationalization and interculturality of Circumscriptions;

b. rotation as personal and communitarian enrichment;

c. awareness of new missionary situations and new areopaghi;

d. need for radicality and coherence in our style of life;

e. greater transparency and ethical awareness in finance; sharing and co-responsibility in the administration of material goods (TCF).

D. Planning guidelines

12.  Authority should be able to offer the Institute a clear iden­tity that, while nourishing itself at the springs of Comboni spirituality, would help it to live the specificity of the mission today.

Authority and competence (leadership and  manage­ment)

12.1  Authority should be correct in formal processes just as we are asked to be by society. It should favour transpa­rency and accountability rather than a certain habit of ap­proximation and a culture of impunity.

12.2  Taking into account some of the legal and bureaucratic complexities of the modern world, authority should qualify itself continually within the Institute also using the accompaniment and assistance of experts (lawyers, economists, etc).

12.3  The increase in responsibility and level of complexity in the exercise of authority will probably bring a decrease in the number of confreres capable of executing this task adequately.

12.4  Authority should favour communion, collaboration, collegiality and subsidiarity; it should guarantee continuity in the structures of the government of the Institute and of the continental and Circumscription plans; it should be at the service of reconciliation within communities and Circumscriptions.

12.5  Whoever exercises the service of authority should make an effort to know people and their abilities ever better, follow and sustain them in the exercise of their ministry; know how to involve colla­borators in different activities; and furthermore have a style of leadership that listens but speaks with authority in communication, with the ability to take necessary even if unpopular decisions.

Authority and missionary methodology

12.6  There should be a balance between personnel and commitments in order to re-qualify mis­sion according to priorities; to this end, if necessary, the number of communities and Circumscriptions should be reduced (clustering-fusing-union).

12.7  It should be inserted fully into the local Church maintaining a specific missionary identity.

12.8  At local level participation and collabo­ration with other ecclesial, social, cultural and civil bodies should be promoted.

12.9  The continuity of community life and missionary activity should be guaranteed.

Other aspects

12.10  An attitude of availability towards central au­thority should be favoured.

12.11  Language communication should be improved in order to reduce problems of reciprocal understanding.

12.12  European Circumscriptions should be internationalised.

12.13  A greater sense of belonging to the Institute should be promoted.

12.14  The Institute should be always ready and able to respond to emergency situations, valuing the principle of solidarity in the General, continental and Circumscription structures of authority.

E. Action Plan

To start the process of rebalancing and requalification

13.  The new reality regarding the membership of the Institute – that is, the increase in those who come from the South of the world and the decrease and ageing of the Circumscriptions of the North – combined with the new challenges of mission and community life, oblige us to seek new criteria in order to redefine the Circumscriptions. Among these we underline a specific mission according to the charism, viable community life, the discernment of missionary necessities, the ability and number of confreres available.

Redefinition of the criteria for the erection of a Province

14.  A Circumscription is born for a specific purpose which is entrusted to it by the In­stitute and as­sumes the status of a Province when it reaches a level of autonomy sufficient to guarantee its services to the local Church and its own members, and to maintain its existence over time in the hope of growth. A Circumscription should have a clear missionary identity with definite priorities.

14.1  The multicultural nature of the Institute and the increase in the average age of its members require a Province to have a numerical consistency superior to that fixed by the RL 103.1 in order to ensure vitality and functionality.

14.2  Number 103.1 of the RL should be substituted by the following text: “The Province is made up of at least five local communities and thirty-five perpetually professed members”. This change becomes effective from 1st January 2014 in line with the erection of the new Circumscriptions (cf. 128.4).

Clustering of circumscriptions

15.   Clustering favours a reduction in Circumscriptions with the possibility of assuring the missionary service proper to the Institute and for the Institute.

15.1  The difficulties of this strategy cannot be hidden (lan­guage, distances, finance, visas) therefore dialogue, process and a clear definition of the criteria of viability are suggested. The whole process to be assessed with adequate discernment.

15.2  Ways and criteria to keep in mind for clustering: a commonly understandable language; geographical proximity even despite possible political difficulties; a common history; kind and quality of missionary service.

15.3  Continents and Circumscriptions are principally responsible for reflections and initiatives so that clustering may go ahead, that missionary service may be favoured in a qualified manner and that community life according to the RL might be possible.

15.4  Continents should continue the process towards clustering begun at the Intercapitu­lar of 2006 and should work out concrete proposals for the Intercapitular of 2012. The GC should accompany and supervise the journey of the continents. All progress made should be evaluated at the In­tercapitular, passing on then to the action stage. In 2013 when the new Circumscriptions have been formed, new PSs would be elected. By 1st January 2014 the Institute’s new configuration will become effective.

Reduction in the number of communities

16.  Over the next six years the GC with the contin­ents and Circumscriptions, should reduce the communities by 10% (around 35), to qua­lify the mission and balancing our commitments against the decrease in personnel.

To favour continuity in the governmental structures of the Institute and continental and Circumscription plans


17.  Duration of the mandate of the General Council. Continuity in the Institute is guaranteed principally by General Chapters and the “Plan of the Comboni Missionaries” that will be drawn up. As a result, no need was seen to change the duration of the mandate of the GC as came out in the continental reports.

18.  Continuity in service. Continuity in the Institute is also favoured by the fact that those who have completed a mandate can be re-elected and continue their service and that the rotation of General Councils after the Chapter may be smoother.

18.1  In order, therefore, to favour the smoother hand-over of General Councils after the Chapter, no. 157.1 of the RL should be changed to read: “The elected General Council will enter into office 30 days after the official closure of the Chapter. Until that date the preceding General Council will continue in office”.

18.2  This decision brings with it the modification of no. 156.1 of the RL as follows: “The Vicar General is nominated from among the priest General Assistants by the Superior General and his Council, with a collegial vote, during the first General Consulta of the mandate”.

18.3  Furthermore no. 152.3 of the RL is reformulated with the text: “The Superior General presides over the Chapter until its conclusion”.


19.  Continental Coordination

19.1  In the Chapter of 2003 indications were given for the favouring of co-responsibility and subsidiarity at all levels and in a particular way for the Continents. The indications contained therein are still valid (CA 2003, 137-141).

19.2  The GC with the PSs should launch a study on continentality in order to clarify its form, function and structures to present at the next Intercapitular.

19.3  The meeting between the GC and the PSs of the conti­nents is seen positively and must be continued. Therefore over the next six years a meeting will be organised after every election of PSs and a third at the Intercapitular. In these meetings there should be an evaluation of how authority and subsi­diarity are understood and lived.

20.  The General Assistants, Secretariats and CCOGF. The Chapter has decided not to increase the number of General Assistants and not to decrease the number of General Secretariats; it has instead amplified the role of the CCOGF.

F. Evaluation

21.  At the General level

21.1  Il GC with the General Secretariats should publish an annual report on the progress made in putting into effect the “Plan of the Comboni Missionaries”.

21.2  Also the Intercapitular foresees a detailed evaluation of the process of putting the “Plan of the Comboni Missionaries” into effect.

21.3  In the meeting with the new PSs, the GC should inform them about the contents and methodology of the “Plan of the Comboni Missionaries”.

22.  At continental level 

22.1  The continental assemblies of the PSs should publish a yearly report on the progress made in putting into effect the “Plan of the Comboni Missionaries”.

23.  At Circumscription level: 

23.1  During Circumscription assemblies an evaluation of the “Plan of the Comboni Missionaries” should be made.