The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life was instituted by Pope Francis on August 15th 2016 with the Motu Proprio ‘Sedula Mater’, and is disciplined by Statutes approved ad experimentum on June 4th 2016, which entered into force on September 1st 2016. This new Dicastery enjoys competencies and functions that previously belonged to the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family, now defunct. Also linked to the Dicastery is the Pontifical Academy for Life.
The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life is headed by a Prefect, assisted by a Secretary and three Under-Secretaries. It has its own members and consultors, among whom are lay faithful, men and women, single and married, committed in a variety of fields and coming from all parts of the world. The Dicastery has a staff of Officials, clergy and laity, chosen, where possible, from across the world.
The Dicastery is organised in three Sections: for the lay faithful, for the family, and for life. It is competent in those matters that belong to the prerogatives of the Apostolic See for the promotion of the life and the apostolate of the laity, for the pastoral care of the family and its mission according to God’s plan, and for the protection and support of human life. The Dicastery promotes and organises international seminars and other initiatives: on one hand concerning the apostolate of the laity, the institution of matrimony, and the reality of the family and of life, in the Church; and, on the other hand, regarding the human and social situation of the laity, of the family as an institution, and of life, in society as a whole.
The competencies of the Section for the lay faithful includes inspiring and encouraging the promotion of the lay faithful’s vocation and mission in the Church and in the world, be it individually, or as members of associations, movements or communities. The Dicastery also promotes study that contributes to furthering doctrinal reflection on themes and questions concerning the lay faithful.
The Dicastery promotes the lay faithful’s awareness of their ‘corresponsibility’ for the life and mission of the Church, rooted in the sacrament of baptism, and exercised according to the many charisms received for its edification, with a particular attention to their specific mission of shaping and perfecting the various spheres of life in society. It also promotes initiatives concerning the lay faithful’s activity in evangelising the various sectors of life in society, and their participation in catechetical instruction, liturgical and sacramental life, missionary action, and works of mercy, charity and social assistance. The Dicastery supports and encourages the active and responsible participation of the lay faithful in the consultative organs of the Universal Church and of Particular Churches, and evaluates requests made to the Apostolic See, by Bishops’ Conferences, for the institution of new ministries and ecclesiastical offices, according to the needs of Particular Churches. The Dicastery also erects international aggregations of the faithful and ecclesial movements, or grants them decrees of recognition, and examines administrative recourses relating to its competencies.
Through the Section for the family, the Dicastery dedicates itself to the family’s pastoral care, protects its dignity and its identity based on the sacrament of matrimony, and favours its rights and responsibilities in the Church and in society as a whole, so that the institution of the family might better fulfil its ecclesial and social functions. The Dicastery also has the task of discerning the signs of the times, in order to promote opportunities in favour of the family, confront the challenges facing it, and put into practice God’s plan for marriage and the family. It follows the activities of the institutes, associations, ecclesial movements and catholic organisations, national and international, whose goal is to serve the good of families. In the context of pastoral activity for the family, the Dicastery attends to furthering doctrine on the family, and its divulgation through an adapted catechesis. It also encourages study on the spirituality of marriage and the family, and the formative impact of this study, as well as offering guidelines for training programmes intended for those engaged to be married and for young couples, and offering guidelines for programmes that support families in the education their youth in the faith, in Church life and in society. It has, here, a particular attention to the poor and the marginalised. The Dicastery encourages the openness of the family to adoption and to foster care, and to care for the elderly, and intervenes before civil institutions to promote these practices. With a view to these goals and in order to promote a common dynamism in the study of marriage, family and life, the Dicastery has a direct link with the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, both with its Central Session in Rome and with its sessions and associated centres in other countries.
The Dicastery’s Section for life intends to support and coordinate initiatives for the protection of human life from conception until natural death; to promote and encourage organisations and associations who assist women and families in welcoming and treasuring the gift of life, particularly in cases of difficult pregnancy, and in avoiding abortion; and to support programmes and initiatives that help women who have had an abortion. The Dicastery also has the task, in conformity with Catholic moral teaching and Church Magisterium, of studying the principal problems of biomedicine and law connected to human life, and the ideologies touching upon human life and the reality of human nature, as well as promoting training on these themes.