Vatican City State Vatican City State  Editorial

"Praedicate Evangelium": A point of arrival and departure

The new Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia enters into force, institutionalizing changes that have largely already materialized for the body which helps the Pope in his service to the universal Church.

By Andrea Tornielli

We find ourselves at a point of arrival and departure, or one could even say a 'restart.' With the entry into force, on 5 June, the feast of Pentecost, of the new Apostolic Constitution "Praedicate Evangelium," a path of reforms that lasted almost a decade has now been accomplished. The journey has accompanied the pontificate of Pope Francis to date, and began in the discussions of the general congregations prior to the 2013 Conclave.

The reform comes after the one carried out by Pope St. John Paul II (Pastor Bonus, 1988), which in turn modified that promulgated by Paul VI (Universi regimini Ecclesiae, 1967). The priority of evangelization and the role of the laity are the main ideas that link the new Apostolic Constitution of Pope Francis to the Second Vatican Council.

Economic reforms

First of all, let's look at the significant achievements thus far. The reforms - more out of necessity linked to judicial necessity than out of a deliberate choice - began with the economic and financial institutions of the Holy See. 

In 2014, Pope Francis established the Council for the Economy, which has the task of overseeing the economic management and supervising the administrative and financial structures and activities of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia. 

At the same time, the Pope established the Secretariat for the Economy, which is the Dicastery of the Roman Curia for oversight and direction, in charge of coordinating the economic and administrative affairs of the Holy See and the Vatican City State. The responsibility for personnel, which until now was the responsibility of the Secretariat of State, is now also being transferred to the Secretariat for the Economy.

Communication, Family, Development

A second step took place in 2015, with the creation of the Secretariat for Communication, which later became the Dicastery for Communication, which brought together 9 different entities (from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to the various newspapers of the Holy See, from the typography to the Vatican Publishing House). The new Dicastery has been entrusted to the leadership of a lay prefect since 2018.

In 2016, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life was established, which unified the competences and functions that had belonged to the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Dicastery is competent in matters relating to the promotion of the life and apostolate of the lay faithful, the pastoral care of youth, the family and its mission, and the protection and support of human life.

Also in 2016, the Pope established the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The powers of 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 Healthcare Workers (for the Pastoral Care of Health), converged into it. The Dicastery is also responsible for Caritas Internationalis.

State and Faith

In November 2017, the Pope also made changes to the Secretariat of State, which until then consisted of two sections, that of General Affairs (led by the Substitute) and that of Relations with States (led by the Secretary for Relations with States ).

Pope Francis has in fact established a third section, called the Section for Diplomatic Staff of the Holy See, strengthening the current office of the Delegate for the Pontifical Representations. The Section, which depends on the Secretariat of State, with its own Secretary, wants to demonstrate the Pope's attention and closeness to the diplomatic staff. It deals exclusively with matters relating to people who work or prepare for the diplomatic service of the Holy See

A further step took place in February 2022. Pope Francis modified the internal structure of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with a Motu Proprio, which clearly separated, with the establishment of two distinct sections, the doctrinal and disciplinary competences, and assigning to each a secretary. The Prefect of the Dicastery would therefore have two deputies. The purpose of the reform is to give due importance also to the doctrinal section and its fundamental role in promoting the faith, without letting disciplinary activity take a back seat, after decades in which many efforts and human resources have been spent to examine cases of abuse. Neither of the two new secretaries was appointed bishop.

New Constitution

We thus arrived at 19 March 2022, with the publication of the new Constitution, which includes the whole path described so far and introduces other innovations that complete the reform. 

The most important: the first dicastery of the Curia is that for evangelization, which unifies the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. The choice indicates that the most fundamental concern is addressed to the proclamation of the Gospel. The peculiarity is that the Prefect of this dicastery becomes the Pope himself, who considers the theme of evangelization to be crucial. He will be helped by two pro-prefects (one for the section for the fundamental questions of evangelization in the world; and one for the section for the first evangelization and the new particular Churches).

The second new aspect concerns the unification into the new Dicastery for Culture and Education, previously the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Culture. The Dicastery will have a single Prefect. 

A third unprecedented element of the Constitution is the transformation of the simple Office of Papal Charities into the third Dicastery of the Roman Curia called the "Dicastery for the Service of Charity". 

Also important to point out in the Constitution is the definition with which an organism that is not part of the Roman Curia is mentioned: what until now was called "General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops," now becomes simply "General Secretariat of the Synod".

Another important development of the Constitution is represented by the fact that the Dicastery heads - not even those of the old congregations - will no longer have to be Cardinals. Other than the Camerlengo, the only two Cardinals mentioned in "Praedicate Evangelium" are the Prefect of the Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and the coordinator of the Council for the Economy. The Pope also established that positions for clerics and religious in the Curia are five-year terms, renewable for a second five-year period, with greater mobility and interchange between Rome and the local Churches.

Openness to laity

Finally, there is a significant element of the new Constitution destined to condition, in its future developments, the concreteness of the life of the local Churches and their structures. 

Pope Francis recalls in the Preamble of the Constitution that "every Christian, by virtue of Baptism, is a missionary disciple to the extent that he has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus". Hence the involvement of laity in the roles of government and responsibility. 

If "any faithful" can preside over a Dicastery or a curial body, "given his or her particular competence, power of governance and particular function," it is because every institution of the Curia acts by virtue of the power entrusted to him or her by the Pope."

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06 June 2022, 10:05