By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis has named Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of
Dallas to head the Vatican’s new office for laity, family and life.
The Dublin-born bishop will celebrate his 69th birthday Sept. 2, the day
after the new Vatican office officially begins its work.
The Dallas Bishop Farrell is the brother of Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary
of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Both brothers were
ordained to the priesthood for the Legionaries of Christ, but the Dallas bishop
was later incardinated in the Archdiocese of Washington and served as an
auxiliary bishop there 2002-2007.
When the Dallas bishop arrives in Rome, it will be the first time the two
brothers have ever ministered in the same city, the Vatican’s Bishop Farrell
told Catholic News Service Aug. 17. The appointment “was a huge surprise
to me and a huge surprise, of course, to him. But he has such a long experience
of pastoral work and administration as well,” he added.
Pope Francis, in a brief apostolic letter formally establishing the new
“Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life,” said the office should
respond “to the situations of our age and adapt to the needs of the
The church, as an “attentive mother,” must show special care and
concern for the lay faithful, for families and for the sacredness of human
life, he wrote in the letter, which was released Aug. 17. “We want to
offer them support and help so that they would be active witnesses of the
Gospel in our age and an expression of the goodness of the Redeemer.”
Pope Francis created the new office by combining the pontifical councils for
the laity and for the family. Statutes for the new office, published in June,
said it was being established “for the promotion of the life and
apostolate of the lay faithful, for the pastoral care of the family and its
mission according to God’s plan and for the protection and support of human
Its new head, Bishop Farrell, has been bishop of Dallas since 2007. Before
that, he was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Washington. He currently
serves as treasurer of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl welcomed the
“At a time when our Holy Father is calling the
attention of the whole church to the role of the laity and the importance of a
robust, pastoral activity and support of family and married life through the
establishment of this new dicastery to focus and coordinate this work, the
leadership that Bishop Farrell brings will be a blessing for all of us,”
the cardinal said. “How appropriate that so soon after the publication of
the postsynodal apostolic exhortation, ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ with its
widespread and wholehearted reception in the church, we would now have a new
Vatican office to further that important ministry. We rejoice to know that this
challenge has been entrusted to the very competent Bishop Farrell.”
The Pontifical Council for the Family had been headed by Archbishop Vincenzo
Paglia, 71, since 2012. Pope Francis appointed him chancellor of the Pontifical
John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family and president of the
Pontifical Academy for Life.
The Pontifical Council for the Laity had been led since 2003 by Polish
Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, 71. The Vatican did not announce his new assignment.
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