Catholic mission statement: Pope is urged to think outside the box

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The Independent Online

It's in danger of doing a "Sainsbury's" - ignoring the competition and confusing its product offering. It needs to reform its management structure and develop a succession plan. And it has to improve shareholder value.

It's in danger of doing a "Sainsbury's" - ignoring the competition and confusing its product offering. It needs to reform its management structure and develop a succession plan. And it has to improve shareholder value.

But these are not the words of a City report on a faltering FTSE company. They are the conclusions of RSM Robson Rhodes on the problems facing the Roman Catholic Church.

The management consultancy has kindly produced, for nothing, a six-point action plan for Pope Benedict XVI to help him revive his church's fortunes.

The report warns that the rise in secularism and religions such as Islam "has attacked the Catholic Church's traditional domestic market in Europe". But its declining market share, argues the consultancy, is self-inflicted as it has partially lost sight of its customers.

Point one in the plan is to explore growth opportunities in the emerging markets of South America and Africa, although RSM warns the Church not to "over-trade" in these countries.

Point two is to shore up its domestic profit sanctuary in Europe. "Should the Church con- sider major cross-border consolidation? Should it revisit the demerger decision pushed by Martin Luther some 500 years ago?" asks RSM.

The Church must also "keep on message". So RSM's third recommendation is that the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger follows his predecessor's "back to basics" call and avoids "diluting the brand promise".

The new pope must also bring the priests "on board". So point four is a "risk management strategy" to address past scandals that have dogged the Church.

Point five would require a break from tradition, but RSM says the 78-year-old Pope should start succession planning to "secure continuity and prevent infighting".

Finally, the new Pope must enhance shareholder value. This is more than just getting bums on pews, says the consultancy. For its stock to rise, the Church needs to improve levels of commitment and depths of belief.

Malcolm McKenzie, author of the report, said he was happy to offer his services to the Pope, but conceded: "I still await the call."

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