By Vatican News staff reporter
Pope Francis set up the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life with the Apostolic Letter Sedula Mater, published in the form of a motu proprio released on 15 August 2016.
He entrusted the office with the tasks of promoting life and the apostolate of the lay faithful, while also offering guidance for the care of young people and families.
“The Church, devoted mother, throughout the centuries,” reads the opening line of the document, “has always had care and consideration for the laity, the family and life, revealing the love of the merciful Saviour towards humanity.”
The motu proprio also pledges the Dicastery’s assistance for the universal Church as she helps the faithful witness to Jesus Christ in our own times.
Office representing many faces of Church
The Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life was formed by combining the offices and personnel of the former Pontifical Council for Life and the Pontifical Council for the Family.
It is governed by Statutes which the Pope approved ad experimentum on 10 April 2018 and which entered into force on 13 May that same year.
Cardinal Kevin Farrell currently serves as the Prefect of the Dicastery, and is assisted by a Secretary, Fr. Alexandre Awi Mello, and two lay Undersecretaries, Linda Ghisoni and Gabriella Gambino. The office is staffed by priests, nuns, and lay people who hail from various parts of the globe.
Promoting laity and respect for life
According to its Statutes, the mission of the Dicastery is to encourage Catholic lay faithful to participate fully in the life and mission of the Church, according to their unique charisms.
It also works to “deepen the reflection on the relationship between men and women in their respective specificity, reciprocity, complementarity and equal dignity.”
Another goal is to promote associations and organizations which help women and families to “cherish the gift of life, especially in the case of difficult pregnancies, and to prevent abortion,” as well as sustaining programs that assist women who have had abortions.
The Dicastery also “coordinates initiatives in favour of responsible procreation, as well as for the protection of human life from conception to its natural end”.
Pastoral care of families
The family also takes pride of place in the Dicastery’s mission by working to protect its dignity and wellbeing “based on the sacrament of marriage”, while fostering its “rights and responsibility in the Church and in civil society.”
One way of accomplishing this goal is by organizing various conferences and international events, including the World Meeting of Families (WMF).
The next WMF is scheduled to take place on 22-26 June 2022, a year later than originally planned due to the pandemic.
This will be its 10th iteration, and will take on a special format, which Pope Francis has called “multicentered and widespread”.
In a video message explaining the unique event, the Pope said Rome will be the main venue but that each diocese will also become a focal point for local meetings of families and communities. “In this way, everyone will be able to participate, even those who cannot come to Rome,” he said.
The 2022 WMF will be one more opportunity for the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life to fulfill its task of promoting “the vocation and mission of lay faithful in the Church and in the world”.