Pope Francis Creates New Dicastery for 'Promoting Integral Human Development'

Pope Francis greeting pilgrims during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, Aug. 31, 2016.
Pope Francis greeting pilgrims during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, Aug. 31, 2016. (photo: Daniel Ibanez/CNA)

Pope Francis has established a new “super-dicastery” for “Promoting Integral Human Development”, headed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Vatican announced today.

In a communiqué, the Holy See Press Office said Francis has issued a motu proprio (papal decree) establishing the new dicastery which will incorporate the Pontifical Councils of Justice and Peace, “Cor Unum”, Health Care Workers, and Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.

It will begin its work from 1 January 2017, after which the four dicasteries it replaces will cease their duties as separate bodies.

In today's announcement, the Vatican said a section of the new dicastery expresses in a “special way the Pope’s concerns for refugees and migrants.”

“In fact, today there cannot be a service to integral human development without special attention to migration”, it said, adding that this is why in the statutes, also published today, it is placed "directly under the guidance of the Holy Father.”

In a short apostolic letter entitled “Humanam Progessionem” published in various languages alongside the motu proprio, the Pope wrote that “in all her being and actions, the Church is called to promote the integral development of the human person in the light of the Gospel.”

This development, he added, “takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation.” The Pope, in trying to affirm these values, “is continuously adapting the institutions which collaborate with him," he said, "so that they may better meet the needs of the men and women whom they are called to serve.”

For this reason, he went on, he has decided to institute this new dicastery which “will be competent particularly in issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture.”

He stressed the statutes have been approved “ad experimentum” (subject to review) but “have the force of law, notwithstanding anything to the contrary.”

Ghianian Cardinal Turkson, currently president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, will head up the new body.

In June this year, members of the Council of Nine Cardinals (C9), the body assisting the Pope in reforming the Roman Curia and Church governance, proposed to the Pope the creation of such a dicastery, and envisioned it incorporating the current competencies carried out by the Pontifical Councils it replaces.

As well as fine tuning the competencies in these areas to better deal with today’s challenges, the wish is also to also increase efficiency. In proposing the new dicastery, the cardinals had reflected on “simplification, harmonization of the tasks of the different bodies.”

As with another "super dicastery" — for Family, Laity and Life — that the Pope established earlier this month, it's not yet clear if either will be a pontifical council, similar to an advisory body or think tank, or a more significant congregation with some executive powers.