On Wednesday, August 31, Pope Francis issued a Moto Proprio establishing a new Vatican dicastery with special responsibility for the plight of migrants and refugees. Also included in the new office announced today will be commissions devoted to charity, ecology, and healthcare workers.

The new department, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, merges four existing offices:  Justice and Peace, Migration, Charity and Health. And Catholic News Service reports that Pope Francis, signalling how important the issue of immigration is to this pontiff, will himself lead the migrants and refugees section “for the moment.”

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CARDINAL PETER TURKSON By Bongoman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The new dicastery will be headed by Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, currently prefect of the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace, and will open its doors on January 1, 2o17. Vatican Radio explains its broad purpose, which is to be

“…competent in issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalised, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture.”