Pope Francis’ Advisers Propose Congregation for Laity, Family and Life

The Holy Father’s council of cardinals recommended that the new congregation combine the Pontifical Councils for the Laity and Family and the Pontifical Academy of Life.

A view of St. Peter's as seen from inside the Vatican.
A view of St. Peter's as seen from inside the Vatican. (photo: 2014 CNA/Bohumil Petrik)

VATICAN CITY — The council of cardinals submitted to Pope Francis on Sept. 17 a proposal to establish a new congregation for laity, family and life in the Roman Curia, after widespread discussion and anticipation.

The council of nine cardinals, who are advising the Pope on reform of the Roman Curia, met at the Vatican Sept. 14-16.

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop emeritus of Milan, had prepared for Pope Francis a study on the feasibility of creating a congregation for laity, family and life and presented his findings to the council.

Having formally recommended the creation of the laity-family-life congregation, the cardinals’ council is still discussing the proposal of another new congregation: for charity, justice and peace.

It is planned that the congregation for laity, family and life would absorb the Pontifical Councils for the Laity and Family and the Pontifical Academy of Life. A congregation for charity, justice and peace would take on the tasks of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Migrants, Cor Unum and Health Care.

It is now up to Pope Francis to decide how to receive and implement the council’s recommendations.

There was also discussion about a draft preamble of the new apostolic constitution defining the Roman Curia, which will replace St. John Paul II’s Pastor Bonus.

The 12th meeting of the council of cardinals will take place Dec. 10-12.

At the Sept. 16 press briefing presenting the findings of the council, Father Federico Lombardi, Holy See press officer, noted that that work of the council “is not only focused on Curial reform: The cardinals are also called to advise the Pope on the government of the universal Church.”

To that end, they also discussed a possible reform of the procedure for the appointment of bishops, in particular discussing “the qualities and requisites for candidates in view of the needs of today’s world and on the related issue of information gathering.” Father Lombardi added that this will be discussed further with the relevant departments.

The council of cardinals also heard from Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect of the recently established Secretariat for Communications.

Msgr. Viganò explained that the secretariat has appointed a group of experts, drawn from the involved institutes, to draft its statutes. The statutes are to emphasize the legal and administrative aspects of the Holy See’s communications.

During the last meeting of the council of cardinals, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors advanced a proposal to establish a new judicial section in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to judge eventual wrongdoing of bishops in cases of abuse. The Pope accepted the proposal and established a five-year period for further development of these proposals and for completing a formal evaluation of their effectiveness.

This theme was raised during the last council of the cardinals. Father Lombardi said that “the matter of how to implement proposals was explored in further depth, especially with regard to the possibility of accelerating the resolution of the many cases still pending.”