The Pope’s new economy czar has been spotted in an American-led business management seminar in the Vatican.

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Spanish Jesuit Juan Antonio Guerrero, whom the Pope named November 14 as the new Prefect of the Holy See’s Secretariat for the Economy, attended Vatican “classes in leadership skills that embody Church values”, the Financial Times reported.

The week-long “Discerning Leadership” program in Rome brought together thirty senior Church leaders, men and women, from countries as distant as Chile, Zimbabwe and South Korea.

The course was offered by professors from private Jesuit Le Moyne College, in upstate New York, and from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, in Washington, and Esade Business School, in Barcelona.

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The FT reported that the course Guerrero was spotted in was “the first secular leadership training course for senior clerics” and was fully backed by Pope Francis.

John Dardis, Jesuit general counsellor in Rome for discernment and apostolic planning, said the program’s goal was to combine leadership and management best practice with Catholic values.

“The Church needs to change, to renew itself, and it can do this in part by learning from the business world”, Dardis told the FT, warning that even so “the Church must not lose its soul”.

“We want to positively impact current and future generations of global leaders”, Dardis explained.

Why it matters

According to the FT, the participants in the “Discerning Leadership” program were hand-picked by Dardis from superiors general around the world, and from lay leaders in the Vatican.

They included Carmen Sammut, who as president of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) represents 600,000 nuns in 80 nations.

“I was curious how learning from the business world could help us”, Sammut remarked, adding that in the Church decision-making process “it is vital to take the time to discern the viewpoints of different stakeholders whether they are religious or lay”.

For the record

One of the lecturers in the Vatican leadership course was McDonough professor of management Bob Bies, who likened the challenges facing the participant superiors to those of his executive MBA students.

“We are going to be talking about leading and managing change”, Bies told the Vatican group.

“That is what you do”.

Bies walked the Church leaders assembled in the Vatican through Harvard Business School professor John Kotter’s eight steps for leading change, and insisted on the need for “vision”, “mission” and urgency when seeking to modify behaviour.

The FT noted that, precisely when he was speaking about urgency, Bies was interrupted by new Vatican Economy Prefect Guerrero.

“It is difficult to get a sense of urgency from people whose perspective is about life being eternal”, Bies lamented.

“You can also say that urgency is created by material needs but in the church people think there are more important things than these”.

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