As Pope Francis' ongoing process of reform continues to move forward, his council of advisers have finished their proposals for two new Vatican departments, which would merge several others together.
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told journalists Feb. 9 that in their most recent meeting, the Pope’s Council of Cardinals gave a “final reading” of the proposals for two new Vatican departments, which are also referred to as “dicasteries.”
While proposals for the new dicasteries, which would be dedicated to “Laity, family and life,” and “Justice, peace and migration,” has been on the table for some time, in this round of meetings “the proposals were finalized and given to the Pope for his decision,” Fr. Lombardi said.
The cardinals met in Rome for just a day and half Feb. 8-9 — a shorter period than their usual, three-day round of meetings. All of the nine members were present except for Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, who is currently recovering from a planned procedural operation in December.
Originally pitched in late 2014, the idea for the new dicasteries has been under development for some time.
As of September 2015, the idea was that the department for Laity, Family, and Life would absorb the Pontifical Councils for the Laity and Family, and the Pontifical Academy of Life, while the department for Justice, Peace and Migration would take on the tasks of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Migrants, Cor Unum and Health Care.
However, with the final proposals turned into the Pope, it's up to Francis to decide how to move forward in implementing the council's recommendations.
Another point addressed during the brief session was a deepening of the Pope’s speech for the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops, which he gave to the bishops and cardinals participating in the Synod on the Family Oct. 17, 2015.
The speech, in which the Pope spoke extensively about the theme of “synodality” and emphasized the need for a “healthy de-centralization,” will be “important for the work of the reform of the Curia,” Fr. Lombardi said.
In addition to the Pope’s speech and the reading of the proposals for the new dicasteries, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston also spoke about the activities of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he heads.
Specifically mentioned were the legal and disciplinary matters that involve the competence of the dicasteries of the Curia. These, the spokesman explained, “must be further explored.”
Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, also gave an update to the council on the state of reform in economic field, including new initiatives and introductions on procedures being carried out by the secretariat.
The cardinals also received a document prepared by the Tribunal of the Rota on the implementation of the new canonical process on the validity of marriage. Fr. Lombardi explained that the document is intended for dioceses, and is “on its way from the Rota to the dioceses.”
The eventual reform of Secretariat of State and the Pontifical Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline was also touched on briefly, though the Vatican spokesman stressed that as of now there is nothing concrete, but that the reform is “a work in progress.”
In addition to the meeting of the council, Pope Francis also appointed new heads to two of the three departments forming the new Secretariat for Communications.
The three departments of the Secretariat of Communication will include the Theological-Pastoral, the Technical Management and the department for editorial staff, which is expected to lead to a “radio-television” Vatican, uniting both Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center.
Heading the Theological-Pastoral department, which will likely take on the functions of the former Pontifical Council for Social communications, is Natasa Govekar, who teaches the theology workshop “Cardinal T. Spidlik” at the Aletti Center in Rome.
Additionally, the department for Technical Management, which will be charged with centralizing in a single technological platform, will be overseen by Francesco Masci, who until now has served in the Technical Area of the Vatican Internet Service.
The announcement of Govekar and Masci’s appointments came in a Feb. 9 communique from the Vatican, and constitutes part of Francis’ ongoing reform of Vatican communications.