Francis creates new Vatican office for charity, justice, peace, migration

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Pope Francis is creating a new multi-departmental Vatican office to streamline the Catholic church's worldwide efforts on justice, peace, charity, healthcare and migration, and is putting management of the last issue directly under his control in a sign of his continuing concern for migrants.

The new office will be called the "Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development" and will combine the work of four pontifical councils, the Vatican announced Wednesday.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, will lead the new office and take the title of prefect. It will come into function on Jan. 1, 2017.

"In all her being and actions, the Church is called to promote the integral development of the human person in the light of the Gospel," Francis states in a letter accompanying the statutes for the new department. "This development takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation."

Discussion about creation of such an office had been ongoing for months. The pope's Council of Cardinals, a group of nine prelates advising the pontiff on reforming the Vatican bureaucracy, formally recommended its creation during their meeting in June.

The Vatican press office said in a statement that a department inside the new office will be dedicated specifically to aiding migrants, which "expresses in a special way the pope's concern for migrants and refugees."

That section will be put "directly under guidance" of the pope ad tempus, or for the moment, it said.

The new dicastery merges the efforts of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, for the Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, and for human and Christian development, known as Cor Unum.

Turkson, a native Ghanaian, has led the peace and justice office since 2009. He had previously served as the head of Ghana's southern archdiocese of Cape Coast.

The four pontifical councils had each come into existence in the decades following the reforms of the landmark Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops. Under the new statutes, they will be suppressed on the same day the new dicastery begins its work.

Among the justice and peace council's most significant recent works was its leading of the drafting of Francis' 2015 ecological encyclical Laudato Si'. The council also co-hosted a first of its kind conference re-examining the church's just war teachings along with Pax Christi International in April.

Creation of the new dicastery for justice and peace issues follows creation of a similar new office combining the Vatican’s work for laity, family and life issues Aug. 17.

That office, called the "Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life," officially opens for work Thursday and is being led by former Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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