BREAKING NEWS: Pope Francis Reforms Roman Curia With Launch of Vatican Constitution

The new apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium replaces Pastor Bonus, promulgated by Pope John Paul II on June 28, 1988, and later modified by both Benedict and Francis.

Pope Francis prays at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on Oct. 2, 2013.
Pope Francis prays at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on Oct. 2, 2013. (photo: Daniel Ibanez / CNA/EWTN File Photo)

The Vatican published on Saturday a long-awaited document implementing Pope Francis’ reform of the organization and structure of the Roman Curia.

The apostolic constitution, Praedicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel), was released on March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, after nine years in production by the Pope’s council of cardinal advisers.

Praedicate Evangelium replaces Pastor Bonus, the apostolic constitution on the Roman Curia promulgated by Pope John Paul II on June 28, 1988, and later modified by both Benedict and Francis.

Under the new constitution, all the Vatican’s departments are now known as “dicasteries.” The powerful Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for example, will now be known as the “Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

The 16 dicasteries will be known as the Dicastery for Evangelization, Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dicastery for the Service of Charity, Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, Dicastery for Bishops, Dicastery for the Clergy, Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, Department for Culture and Education, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Dicastery for Legislative Texts, and Dicastery for Communication.

On his election in 2013, Pope Francis was widely seen as having a mandate to reform the Roman Curia. Over the first eight and a half years of his pontificate, he issued decrees changing Vatican law and structures, which are reflected in the text of the new constitution.

The council of cardinals finished the first draft in 2018. The text was then circulated among the presidents of national bishops’ conferences, dicasteries of the Roman Curia, synods of the Eastern Churches, conferences of major superiors, and select pontifical universities for feedback in 2019. 

The council of cardinals met in February 2020 for “an in-depth rereading and revision” of the document. 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the cardinals continued to review the text at virtual meetings with Pope Francis.

Seven cardinals currently serve on the council of cardinals, helped by secretary Bishop Marco Mellino: Honduran Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, who acts as coordinator; Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin; Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State; Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay; German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising; U.S. Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston; and Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa.

In January 2021, Cardinal Parolin said that “considerable progress” had already been made in the Pope’s reform of the Roman Curia, particularly with regard to Vatican finances, pointing to the creation of the Council for the Economy, the Secretariat for the Economy, and the Office of the Revisor General.

He added that further reforms could include the merger of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples with the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and the combination of the Congregation for Catholic Education with the Pontifical Council for Culture.

“But these are minor actions compared to what has already been done,” he said. “Now it is a question of giving homogeneity to all the reforms which have been made, by means of the new apostolic constitution.”

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