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Council of Cardinals completes proposal for new Congregation for the Laity

September 16, 2015

The Council of Cardinals has presented Pope Francis with a proposal for creating a new Vatican Congregation for Laity, Family and Life.

At the conclusion of a 3-day meeting this week, the Council of Cardinals—the 9-member panel appointed by the Pope to advise him on Vatican reforms—announced the completion of a proposal for one of the two new Congregations that have been proposed. Plans for another new congregation, merging current dicasteries involved in charity and justice-and-peace issues, are not yet complete.

The Council has also not finished drafting the preamble for an apostolic constitution that would be issued by Pope Francis, codifying the changes in the structure of the Roman Curia. However, the Pope could inaugurate the new office(s) without awaiting the completion of that document.

Pope Francis has also asked the Council of Cardinals to study the process by which bishops are named. Although that process lies outside the scope of reforming the Vatican bureaucracy, the Pope indicated that he would like to scrutinize the way Vatican leaders identify the 150 new bishops who are appointed each year.

The new Vatican body, tentatively entitled the Congregation for Laity, Family and Life, would be created by combining the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Pontifical Academy for Life would continue to exist, but as an arm of the new congregation.

Both the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family currently have their offices in the Palace of St. Callixtus, in Rome’s Trastevere section. It is possible, therefore, that the new congregation would have its headquarters there, although most of the other existing Vatican congregations are clustered around St. Peter’s Square.

The Vatican congregations are the most important offices of the Roman Curia, and the establishment of a new congregation for the laity underlines the importance of the lay role in the Church. There are currently nine congregations:

  1. Congregation for Bishops
  2. Congregation for Catholic Education
  3. Congregation for the Causes of Saints
  4. Congregation for Clergy
  5. Congregation for Divine Worship
  6. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  7. Congregation for Evangelization
  8. Congregation for Consecrated Life
  9. Congregation for the Eastern Churches

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