VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis announced on 22 Oct 2015 to the Synod on the Family that he has chosen to establish a new office in the Roman Curia that will deal with issues of laity, family, and life, as part of his reform of the curia.
“I have decided to establish a new dicastery with competency for laity, family and life that will replace the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family,” he said, according to a communique from the Holy See press office. “To this end, I have constituted a special commission that will prepare a text delineating canonically the competencies of the new dicastery–a word covering both congregations and pontifical councils. The text will be presented for discussion to the Council of Cardinals at their next meeting in December.”
The pope added that in addition to the pontifical councils for the laity and the family, the Pontifical Academy for Life will also join the new office.
This move is significant because it streamlines three separate offices into one; it is also meant to give greater attention to issues relating to the laity in the Church. Pope Francis’ decision has been widely anticipated since he established in April 2013, the Council of Cardinals to advise him on the reform of the Roman Curia. The group of eight, and later, nine, had its first meeting in October that year.
The Council of Cardinals last met in September, and it was reported at that time that they had formally submitted to the pope a proposal for a congregation for laity, family, and life. By then it had been decided that the Pontifical for Health Care Workers would not be included in the ‘laity congregation,’ but rather in a second new congregation for charity, justice, and peace, which would subsume also the pontifical councils for justice and peace, migrants and Cor Umum.
The next meeting of the cardinals’ council is scheduled for December 2015. Reflecting on the programme of curial reform on 12 Feb 2015, at the opening of a consistory of cardinals, Francis said, “Reform is always that of promoting greater harmony in the work of the various dicasteries and offices, in order to achieve more effective collaboration in that absolute transparency which builds authentic synodality and collegiality. It is not an end in itself but a way of giving strong Christian witness; to promote more effective evangelisation, to promote a fruitful ecumenical spirit, and to encourage a more constructive dialogue with all.
Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia has already resulted in the creation of a Secretariat for the Economy and a Secretariat for Communications. It is expected that, assisted by the Council of Cardinals, the pope will promulgate a new apostolic constitution describing the Roman Curia. The curia is currently governed by Pastor Bonus, issued by John Paul II in 1988. – CNA/EWTN News.