Curia reform: Congregation for the Laity

The creation of a new Vatican Congregation for the Laity appears to be a likely first step in the reform of the Roman Curia.

Many are welcoming this as a recognition that the laity have just as important a role in the church as bishops, clergy and religious, each of which has a congregation dedicated to their concerns.

Reform of the Curia has been a major item of the agenda of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals.

Currently, there is a Council for the Laity, but in the Vatican pecking order, councils are ranked below congregations.

For example, a cardinal must head the nine Vatican congregations, but the 12 councils can make do with an archbishop.

Not only would the laity council be upgraded, it would be merged into a larger entity that could take over the functions of the Council for the Family, the Council for Health Care Workers, and the Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

Whether this new entity will be a congregation or a secretariat, like the new secretariat dealing with Vatican finances, remains to be seen.

In any case, a cardinal will head it, and Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga’s name has been floated.

Laypeople could head offices within the congregation.

Another entity may result from the merger of the Council for Justice and Peace and the Council Cor Unum.

One plan would put the portfolios of the Council for Health Care Workers and the Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People into this new congregation rather than into the Congregation for the Laity.

If these councils go to the laity congregation, the emphasis would be on pastoral care for migrants and health care workers.

If they go to a new Congregation for Justice and Charity, then the emphasis would be on charity and justice. Continue reading

Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is the author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.

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News category: Analysis and Comment.

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