Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life

The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life is a dicastery of the Roman Curia. Pope Francis announced its creation on 15 August 2016, effective 1 September 2016. It takes over the functions and responsibilities of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family. It has responsibility "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 life."[1] The statutes governing this new body had been approved on 4 June 2016.[2][3] A revised statue was published on 8 May 2018, effective 13 May.[4] It added to its mission promoting "ecclesial reflection on the identity and mission of women in the church and in society, promoting their participation"; specified two undersecretaries instead of two and no longer required organization into three divisions; and both developing "guidelines for training programs for engaged couples preparing for marriage, and for young married couples" and guiding the care of couples in unorthodox marital situations.[5]

As its first Prefect, Francis named Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, Texas,[6] whom Francis telephoned in May to propose his appointment before Farrell accepted it in June.[7] He also appointed Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the soon to be abolished Pontifical Council for the Family, to head the Pontifical Academy for Life and the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, which are academic centers associated[note 1] with the new dicastery.[3] Pope Francis instructed Paglia that the institutes' work should be "ever more clearly inscribed within the horizon of mercy" and that "in theological study, a pastoral perspective and attention to the wounds of humanity should never be missing".[8]

Pope Francis had announced that he intended to establish the new dicastery and replace two existing pontifical councils at the Synod of Bishops on the Family on 22 October 2015. The Council of Cardinals that he formed in April 2013 to advise him on the reform of the Roman curia had discussed the idea extensively and recommended it following a study by Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop emeritus of Milan.[9]

In 31 May 2017, Pope Francis named Alexandre Awi Mello the Dicastery's Secretary.[10][11] On 7 November he appointed Gabriella Gambino Sub-Secretary of the section on life and Linda Ghisoni Sub-Secretary of the section on laity. Both academics and laywomen, they became the highest ranking in the Vatican.[12]

Dicastery’s responsibility for role of women in Church[edit]

In May 2018, Pope Francis updated the statutes of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, adding among other things a specific reference to the office's responsibility for promoting a deeper reflection on the role of women in the church and society. [13]

The Dicastery’s prefect Cardinal Kevin Farrell banned Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland, Canon Lawyer and award winning Catholic academic and author, from speaking in the Vatican on International Women’s Day at a conference on women in the Church. [14]

In March 2018, McAleese asked “If you are going to exclude women in perpetuity from priesthood and if all decision-making, discernment and policy-making in the Church is going to continue to be filtered through the male priesthood, tell me how in justice and charity, but most importantly in equality, are you going to include the voices of women in the formation of the Catholic faith?. [15] The Dicastery and Farrell have failed to respond or answer this question. In August 2018, Farrell refused to attend a symposium on women in the church that was held as part of the World Meeting of Families 2018.[16].


  1. ^ "This Section [for the Family] is directly linked to the Pontifical Institute of John Paul II for Studies on Marriage and the Family, both to the central headquarters and the affiliated institutions, to ensure a common syllabus in the study of marriage, family and life."; "The Pontifical Academy for Life is connected with this Dicastery". Statutes, Articles 10, 13[2]


  1. ^ Wooden, Cindy (17 August 2016). "Pope names Dallas bishop head of new office for laity, family, life". National Catholic Reporter. Catholic News Service. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Statutes of the New Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life". The Holy See. 4 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Pope Outlines Vision for Promoting Life, Family Issues". New York Times. Associated Press. 17 August 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Statute of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life". Secretariat for Communications. 8 May 2018. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ Wooden, Cindy (8 May 2018). "Pope calls dicastery to promote reflection on role of women". National Catholic Reporter. Catholic News Service. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  6. ^ Winters, Michael Sean (17 August 2016). "Bishop Farrell heads to Rome: What it means". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  7. ^ "New aide says Francis wants to hear laity, not just bishops and priests". Crux. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  8. ^ "Pope Francis issues marching orders for new pro-life leader". Crux. 18 August 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  9. ^ Arocho Esteves, Junno (23 October 2015). "Pope establishes new dicastery for laity, family, life". National Catholic Reporter. Catholic News Service. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  10. ^ "Nominati segretario Dicastero Laici e Famiglia e presidente Accademia Mariana" (in Italian). Vatican Radio. 31 May 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  11. ^ Wooden, Cindy (31 May 2017). "Pope names Brazilian priest secretary of office for laity, family, life". National Catholic Reporter. Catholic News Service. Retrieved 1 June 2017.
  12. ^ Brockhaus, Hannah (7 November 2017). "Pope names two laywomen to key positions in Vatican's family office". Crux. Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  13. ^ https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/pope-calls-dicastery-promote-reflection-role-women
  14. ^ https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2018/02/former-irish-president-barred-speaking-vatican/
  15. ^ https://www.thejournal.ie/mary-mcaleese-catholic-church-3891496-Mar2018/%3famp=1
  16. ^ https://www.rte.ie/radio1/marian-finucane/programmes/2018/0818/985940-marian-finucane-saturday-18-august-2018/?clipid=102901053#102901053

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