Pope approves new Vatican department for the Laity, Family, and Life

Pope Francis 1 walking out of the Paul VI Hall during the Synod of Bishops on Oct 9 2015 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA 10 9 15 Pope Francis walking out of the Paul VI Hall during the Synod on the Family, Oct. 9, 2015. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Pope Francis has approved the institution of a new Vatican department dedicated to the family, the laity, and life.

According to a set of statutes released Saturday, the new department will promote "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."

This will be so "that the family institution may always fulfill its proper functions both within the Church and society."

The Vatican department – which is also known as a dicastery – will also will pay "special attention to the particular mission of the lay faithful to permeate and perfect the order of temporal reality," the statute continues.

The new dicastery on the family, laity, and life will take effect Sept. 1, 2016, at which point both the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and the Pontifical Council for the Family will be dissolved. The Pontifical Academy for Life will be connected to the new entity according to its competence. Last October, at the end of the Synod on the Family, the Holy Father announced his intent to create the new dicastery, and his creation of a special commission tasked with delineating canonically its competencies.

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 heads of the dicastery for family, laity, and life will include a prefect, who will be assisted by a secretary which, the statutes say, could be a lay person, along with three lay undersecretaries.

Members of the department will include lay persons, men and women, celibate and married, working in different fields of activity and coming from different parts of the world.

One of the tasks will be to promote the analysis of doctrine on themes and questions pertaining to lay persons.

The dicastery will also "establish aggregations of faithful and lay movements which have and an international character, and will approve their statutes, save the competence of the Secretary of State."

Another focus will be the "deepening of the doctrine of the family," and promoting it through catechesis, especially with regard to the spirituality of marriage and the family.

Other programs will include formation of engaged couples and young people, supporting adoption, and care for the elderly.

In addition, the department will support and coordinate "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."

These initiatives will include efforts to offer support to women experiencing difficult pregnancies so they do not resort to abortion, as well as programs for post-abortive mothers.

The dicastery for family, laity, and life will be directly linked to the Pontifical John Paul II institute for Marriage and the Family.

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