Even before he was elected pope, the cardinals during the pre-conclave asked the new pontiff to hold regular meetings with a small group of cardinals apart from the Roman Curia.
After the white smoke finally cleared the air, Pope Francis accepted the proposal and appointed a council of eight cardinals to advise him on matters of the Church. This happened just a month after his election on April 13, 2013.
"The pope has felt the need to be a reformer specifically of the Roman Curia, he needed a group of counselors with an outside perspective, to identify what was not working and suggest changes.”
He asked them for two things: to help him reform the Roman Curia and to help him govern the Catholic Church.
A few months later, the group of eight cardinals welcomed a new member, the new Secretariat of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Hence, they become known as the C9.
The group consists of:
Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras;
Cardinal Francisco Javier Erráuriz, Chile;
Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley of Boston; Cardinal Reinhard Marx, of Munich;
Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay;
Cardinal George Pell, secretary for Economy;
and the Governor of Vatican, Giusseppe Bertello.
Italian Bishop Marcello Semeraro acts as the coordinator and secretary.
"It is a group that helps the pope to reflect on important decisions of his pontificate. It is a filter that the pope uses to gather information, perspectives and opinions. On his own, he would not have this global view of issues that concern the government of the Catholic Church.”
Although decisions should be made by the Pope, his advice has been instrumental in advancing the reform of the Curia.
Also, thanks to them, the department for the prevention of sexual abuse in the Church was launched, an economic secretariat inside the Vatican, and a department in charge of reforming Vatican communications.
Most importantly, the C9 group of cardinals come from various parts of the world. Combined, they make sure that the pope has access to endless channels of communication. Until recently, all relevant information reached him only through the Secretariat of State of the Holy See.