[Austen Ivereigh] Pope Francis has created a major new Vatican dicastery, or department, that brings together the work of four existing councils under one roof. Although the move had been announced earlier this summer, neither its name nor its head were known publicly until the statute yesterday.
The new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development is in effect the Vatican’s social department at the service of the poor of the world, the environment and justice concerns, promoting the ‘battlefield-hospital Church’ that Francis believes is key to evangelization.
From 1 Jan 2017, when it opens its doors for business, the new dicastery will absorb the four pontifical councils for Justice & Peace, Migrants & Itinerant Peoples, health workers (which oversees the work of around 6,000 Catholic hospitals and 18,000 clinics across the world), as well as the Vatican’s charitable arm, Cor Unum.
“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,” according to the new statute (see below) promulgated yesterday. “This development takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation.”
Noting that the Pope “is continuously adapting the institutions which collaborate with him, so that they may better meet the needs of the men and women whom they are called to serve,” the motu propio says the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development “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.”
Francis has named the Ghanian cardinal who currently heads Justice and Peace, Peter Turkson, as the new department’s head, but in an an unprecedented move, the migration section of the office will be directly under the leadership of the Pope himself.
The title of the new dicastery is significant: the term ‘human development’ is familiar from Blessed Pope Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio, which opens with the words:
The progressive development of peoples is an object of deep interest and concern to the Church. This is particularly true in the case of those peoples who are trying to escape the ravages of hunger, poverty, endemic disease and ignorance; of those who are seeking a larger share in the benefits of civilization and a more active improvement of their human qualities; of those who are consciously striving for fuller growth.
The term ‘integral’ development’ is also key to Populorum Progressio (which in the English translation is rendered as ‘complete’ or ‘well-rounded’), which makes clear that development cannot be restricted or reduced to economic and material growth but “must foster the development of each man and of the whole man.”
The new department follows the creation earlier this summer of a new dicastery for laity, family and life, to be headed by an American bishop, that formally opens today (see CV Comment here and here). In both cases, the new departments amalgamate and elevate the work done previously by the many pontifical councils, which are advisory, dialogue bodies (as opposed to congregations, which are executive or legislative) whose task is to engage the outside world on issues of shared human concern.
In effect the two new dicasteries are a hybrid of both congregation and council, suggesting that the distinction — long regarded as artificial in practice — will disappear as the Vatican reorganization being overseen by the Council of Nine (C9) cardinals gets underway.
Francis has stipulated that the dicasteries’ deputies “may also be laypeople”, and both Cardinal Turkson and Bishop Farrell are expected to have laypeople, including women, in their top teams.
The new dicasteries represent the second phase of the reorganization of the curia, following the creation of two powerful new Secretariats, for the Economy (2014) and for Communications (2015). In each case, the purpose has been to consolidate and simplify functions, to prevent wasteful duplication.
Only five councils now remain of the original 12 that Francis inherited, most of them created in the era of Pope Paul VI. They are: for Christian Unity, for Interreligious Dialogue, for Legislative Texts, for Culture, and for the New Evangelization (the last created by Benedict XVI in 2011).
Their fate will largely depend on the C9’s plans for the further reorganization of the Curia, above all the nine congregations that exercise the Pope’s authority over distinct areas of the worldwide Church’s life.
For now, it seems clear that the reorganization shows four kinds of governance in the Vatican: secretariats to govern the Vatican’s internal functions (State, Synod, Economy, Communication), congregations to regulate the Church worldwide (clergy, bishops, religious congregations, eastern Churches, education, canonizations, missions, the sacraments, and teaching), dicasteries concerned with the Church’s engagement with the wider world (laity, family and life, integral human development), and councils to oversee dialogue with specific groups: interreligious, ecumenical, etc.
However, the reform is still underway, and the final structure of the curia far from settled.
Statute text follows:
Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio by the Supreme Pontiff Francis
instituting the DICASTERY FOR PROMOTING INTEGRAL HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
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 takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation. The Successor of the Apostle Peter, in his work of affirming these values, is continuously adapting the institutions which collaborate with him, so that they may better meet the needs of the men and women whom they are called to serve.
So that the Holy See may be solicitous in these areas, as well as in those regarding health and charitable works, I institute the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. This Dicastery 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.
In the new Dicastery, governed by the Statutes that today I approve ad experimentum, the competences of the following Pontifical Councils will be merged, as of 1 January 2017: the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers. On that date these four Dicasteries will cease exercising their functions and will be suppressed, and articles 142-153 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus will be abrogated.
I decree that what has been set out in this Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio have the force of law, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, even if worthy of special mention, and that it be promulgated by publication in L’Osservatore Romano, therefore published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, entering into force on 1 January 2017.
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 17 August 2016, the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Fourth Year of my Pontificate.