By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — To promote Catholic social teaching and ensure
appropriate assistance to vulnerable people — especially victims of war,
refugees and the sick — Pope Francis has established a new office combing the
responsibilities of four pontifical councils.
In an apostolic letter given “motu
proprio” (on his own initiative) and published by the Vatican Aug. 31, the
pope said the new “Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development”
will merge the pontifical councils for Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, Migrants and Travelers, and
Health Care Ministry.
The pope named Cardinal Peter Turkson, current president of the
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to serve as prefect of the new office, which will begin functioning Jan. 1.
In his letter signed Aug. 17, the pope said,
“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.”
According to the new
statutes, the prefect
will be assisted by a secretary and “at least one undersecretary.” Laypeople can be
chosen for either role.
While Cardinal Turkson will
lead the new office, a section dedicated to refugees and migrants will be led “ad tempus” (for the
time being) directly by the pope, who will “exercise it in the
manner he deems appropriate,” the statutes state.
The new dicastery’s responsibilities include gathering
news and information regarding areas of justice and peace and the protection of
human rights, particularly in areas where people are plagued by violence,
migration, slavery, torture and exploitation, the Vatican said.
The new office will work to “deepen the
social doctrine of the church and ensure that it is widely known and put into
practice and that social, economic and political relationships will be
increasingly permeated by the spirit of the Gospel,” the press statement
Ensuring that local churches
offer appropriate material and spiritual assistance to the sick, migrants, refugees
and itinerant people also
is part of the new office’s mandate.
The Dicastery for Promoting
Integrating Human Development will have separate commissions for charity,
ecology and health workers and will maintain a “close relationship”
with the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Vatican said.
Francis approved the statutes “ad experimentum” (on a trial basis)
for an unspecified period of time.
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