While Americans were busy this weekend with sports and shopping and family get-togethers, Pope Francis was busy establishing a new Pontifical Council. On Saturday, June 4, the Holy Father approved the institution of a new Vatican department dedicated to the family, the laity, and life.
The new Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life will take effect September 1, 2016. At that time, the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which were founded as a direct response to Vatican II, will be dissolved. The Pontifical Academy for Life will be connected to the new Council, as will the Pontifical John Paul II institute for Marriage and the Family.
The responsibilities of the new Dicastery will include “the pastoral care of the family, maintain the dignity and basic good of the Sacrament of marriage, favor the rights and responsibilities of the Church in civil society” so that “the family institution may always fulfill its proper functions both within the Church and society.”
The new Dicastery will also pay “special attention to the particular mission of the lay faithful to permeate and perfect the order of temporal reality.”
A report from Catholic News Agency explains:
Francis approved the statues for the newest dicastery “ad experimentum” on the proposal of the Council of Cardinals in charge of the study of the reform of the Roman Curia, according to a June 4 statement from the Holy See press office.
The new Vatican body will be tasked with projects relating to the apostolate of the laity, the institution of marriage, and the family within the life of the Church.
It will deal with matters regarding the promotion of life, the apostolate of the laity, the pastoral care and of the family, and “its mission, according to God’s design, to support human life,” according to statutes which the Pope approved Saturday.
The new Dicastery will have a prefect, a secretary and three lay undersecretaries. Its staff will include lay persons, both male and female, celibate and married, drawn from different fields and from nations around the world.
There will be a renewed emphasis on
“initiatives to encourage responsible procreation, as well as for protection of human life from its conception until its natural end, taking into account the needs the person in the different evolutionary phases.”
The Dicastery will support organizations such as crisis pregnancy centers, which help women who are experiencing difficult or unplanned pregnancies so that they don’t resort to abortion. There will also be a focus on organizations such as Rachel’s Vineyard, which reach out to offer counseling and support for post-abortive mothers.
In addition, the Dicastery will promote the analysis of doctrine on themes and questions pertaining to lay persons, and deepen the Church’s doctrine on the family, looking for ways to strengthen the spirituality of marriage and the family through improved catechesis. This may include better formation opportunities for engaged couples and young people, efforts to support adoption, and care of the elderly.
Image: By Alfredo Borba (Own work)