On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, 2022, Pope Francis unveiled his highly anticipated reform of the Roman Curia in a new apostolic constitution for the Roman Curia, entitled Praedicate Evangelium, or Preach the Gospel: on the Roman Curia and its Service to the Church and the World. Still only available in Italian, the document was formally introduced in a press conference on Monday, March 21. This new apostolic constitution fully replaces Pastor Bonus, the constitution promulgated by Pope John Paul II, and will go into full effect on Pentecost, June 5, 2022.
It is safe to say that the reform of the Curia is potentially one of the most impactful developments of the Francis pontificate. Re-orienting the activities of the Curia around the core mission of evangelization brings it in line with Francis’s long-established pastoral priorities. Other reforms in the document involve the role of the laity in Church governance and the economic bodies of the Vatican.
To keep WPI readers up to speed on the document and what we have learned about it thus far, here is a collection of “recommended reading” of news and analysis from trusted sources on Praedicate Evangelium.
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, March 19, 2022: Pope Francis announces major overhaul of Roman Curia
Merging some congregations and pontifical councils and raising the status of others—particularly the charitable office of the papal almoner—Pope Francis said he hoped the constitution would ensure that the offices of the Vatican fulfill their mission in helping promote the church as a community of missionary disciples, sharing the Gospel and caring for all those in need.
Gerard O’Connell, America, March 19, 2022: With Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia, nine years of work is coming to fruition
The Vatican surprised everyone, including officials in the Roman Curia, when it released the 54-page constitution “Praedicate Evangelium” on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, as Francis began the 10th year of his pontificate. At present, the text is only available in Italian, but translations in English and other languages are expected to come soon. One source suggested to America that it was released today to prevent it being leaked in advance of the official presentation on Monday.
Vatican News, March 21, 2022: ‘Praedicate Evangelium’ presented at Holy See Press Office
The concept of synodality enters into the equation now, as the Roman Curia becomes increasingly instrumental in listening and dialoguing with the particular Churches as it carries out its service.
Ines San Martin, Crux, March 21, 2022: Vatican explains new reform of Roman Curia, with evangelization at its core
Francis was elected pope in 2013 with a mandate to reform the huge and inefficient Vatican bureaucracy. Soon after his election he appointed a cabinet of cardinal advisors who have met regularly since then to help him write the document released on Saturday.
But beyond the “technical” reforms, the document is a faithful response to the three points Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio outlined during the meetings leading up to the conclave that would elect him pope on March 13, 2013.
“Spiritual worldliness” is “the worst evil of the Church,” the Argentine prelate told the college of cardinals, according to a handwritten note published weeks later by the archbishop of Havana. The church has the duty to “go out of itself” to evangelize the “peripheries, not only geographical, but existential.”
Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, March 20, 2022: Pope presses ahead with Curia reforms, releases new constitution
Along with making structural changes, the aim of the constitution is to ensure that the Roman Curia, the oldest bureaucracy in the world, is geared towards missionary evangelisation. This cannot, the document makes clear, be left solely to the Vatican’s monsignors, bishops and cardinals.
“The Pope, the bishops and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelisers in the Church,” the constitution’s introduction explains. “The reform of the Curia, therefore, must include the involvement of laymen and women, also in roles of governance and responsibility.”
Among the other significant structural changes announced in the constitution is the inclusion of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors into the structure of the Curia, and is effectively the establishment of the first Vatican safeguarding office. One of the difficulties the commission has faced in the past has been a lack of any legal status in the Vatican. It will remain a distinct body but come under the new Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Colleen Dulle, America, March 21, 2022: Pope Francis is drawing on Vatican II to radically change how the Catholic Church is governed
The new constitution for the Roman Curia, “Praedicate Evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”), which was finally released March 19 after nine years of work, recognizes that in the face of the crises of abuse, vocations and credibility, the way forward is not a “smaller but purer” church but rather a broad evangelization, the road map for which is Vatican II.
Elise Ann Allen, Crux, March 19, 2022: Pope writes his vision for the Church into new constitution for Roman Curia
Perhaps most noteworthy for many observers is the pope’s decision to create more space for lay people, including in positions of leadership.
To this end, the constitution states that “the pope, the bishops, and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelizers in the Church,” and because of this, the curial reform “must provide for the involvement of lay people, even in roles of government and responsibility.”
Calling the presence and contribution of lay people “essential,” the document says, “any member of the faithful can head a department or organism,” if the pope decides they are qualified and appoints them.
Whether or not the Vatican is able to attract senior-level lay people is yet to be seen, given that the pay is notoriously low, especially for workers who have to support families, and other issues, such as paternity leave for fathers, which was recently expanded from just one day to three.
For further background, check out some of these posts from the WPI archives.
On the Curia, Reform, and Synodality:
Francis on Synod: “Open to the Newness of God”
Pope Francis’s vision of synodality
Pope to Curia: A time of crisis is a time of the Spirit
Francis: A providential father
We must address the structural issues that plague the Church
Different Paths: The Synod Cynics and Archbishop Pierre
On the centrality of evangelization in Francis’s style:
What does Pope Francis have to say to the New Evangelization?
On the abuse crisis and reform in the Church:
Listen to the cry of the victims
Healing the Wounds: An interview with Mark Joseph Williams
Will Vos Estis Stop Another McCarrick?
On the role of women and laity in the Church:
Pope Francis takes concrete steps for women in the Church
Spiritus Domini: Development in Continuity
The Burden of Co-Responsibility
Image: Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash
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Rachel Amiri serves as Production Editor for Where Peter Is and has also appeared as the host of WPI Live. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with degrees in Theology and Political Science, and was deeply shaped by the thought of Pope Benedict XVI. She has worked in Catholic publishing as well as in healthcare as a FertilityCare Practitioner. Rachel is married to fellow WPI Contributor Daniel Amiri and resides in St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising three children.