A new Apostolic Constitution to improve relations between Rome and the world

After a nine-year wait, the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium, which defines the new organization of the Roman Curia, finally came into force this Sunday, June 5, the day of Pentecost. This text seals the new organization of the Vatican and its relations with the local Churches, in line with the orientations of Pope Francis.

Pope Francis made this an urgent priority from the start of his pontificate, but the project became more complicated than expected: while others envisioned a change in the Roman Curia in 100 days or a years, it finally took nine years to arrive. on the publication of the new Constitution… whose version was announced publicly on March 19, at the feast of San Jose, proved to be a temporary version, later amended.

The challenge is more than just the Roman microcosm. It is true that the full articulation of the relationship between the Vatican and the rest of the world examined, through this new “Law” that replaced the Constitution proclaimed by John Paul II in 1988, Pastor bonus. It will take more than 40 working sessions to allow the Council of Cardinals to develop this new system, to put the Curia in the service of the local Churches, to the dynamics of evangelism desired by the Pope in his first exhortation published in 2013, Gaudium’s Gospel.

In organizational chart terms, there is no longer a distinction between “congregations” and “pontifical councils” but only “dicasteries”, that is ministry. The first in the order of the protocol is the dicastery for evangelization, where the Pope personally becomes prefect. The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith took the second position, and the third place for the Apostolic Chaplaincy, which became “Dicastery for the Service of Charity”.

Thus, evangelism, faith and charity form a common triptych and constitute the backbone of a Curia focused on the service of the Christian people and all mankind, eliminating as much as possible any logic of bureaucracy and career.

A “de-clericalization” of the Curia

Among other concrete developments, the formalization of the opening of lay people for management positions. While the departments that oversee the bishops or clergy should logically remain under the leadership of the clergy, some sectors such as education and culture (now merged into one department) or, of course, the “laity, family and life ”pole, soon there will be lay prefects, male or female. The “government reshuffle” expected in the coming days should make it possible to find new faces. It should be noted that since 2018, the Dicastery for Communication – the largest in terms of the number of people working – is already headed by a layman, the Italian journalist Paolo Ruffini.

According to the latest version of the Constitution, even the appointment of a lay or lay woman as Secretary of State, the equivalent of a “Prime Minister” to the Pope, may be possible. In January 2020, the appointment of Italian Francesca di Giovanni as Undersecretary for Relations with States (in other words, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs) may mark a milestone in this direction.


During a press conference held in May at the Vatican, Cardinal Maradiaga, coordinator of the Council of Cardinals, did not rule out that Holy See diplomacy would call on the laity, and that the office of apostolic nuncio would no longer be simply delegated to bishops. But this development is not included in the Constitution and will be the subject of further debate.

Job rotation will require flexibility

Another provision that would allow a revitalization of the Curia: the establishment of a turnover on workstations. The principle of a five-year term, which can be renewed only once, was introduced. This development will inevitably present some difficulties in terms of recruitment for some more specialized positions. It is hard to imagine, for example, that the Latin Section of the Secretariat of State will see its executives come and go every five years, while Latinists who are able to interpret the theological and diplomatic subtleties of the pope’s speeches are few in number. work. markets, including religious and ecclesiastical.

So accommodation and flexibility are needed. This is one of the challenges of a first re-reading to be done by the cardinals uniquely summoned to Rome at the end of the summer. This meeting will be preceded by a consistory for the creation of 21 new cardinals, including 16 voters, on 27 August.

With this announcement of a Consistory almost three months in advance, and a two-day session on the work of the entire Sacred College on the new Apostolic Constitution, Pope Francis adopted an unusual process. “The delay is long. But perhaps he wants to act to prepare the teachings of the Curia ”, explained Mgr Patrick Valdrini, canonist and canon of St. John the Lateran.

For Msgr. Valdrini, this consistory “is the sign that this constitution has a political purpose” believed Pope Francis, who suffered, when he was still bishop of Argentina, from his difficult relationship with Rome. This text is in line with “his vision of the Curia and the use of collegiality, and he wants it to enter the minds of the people”, defines the French canonist.

But the work is not finished: after the meeting of cardinals in the summer of 2022, the Synod on synodality, in the autumn of 2023, should be made possible to clarify some points that are likely to develop. The method of teaching and bishops and the setting of bishops ’conferences will be one of the topics to be discussed. This assembly will be a new manifestation ofEcclesiaalways reform“The Church is constantly changing”, a formula commonly used since the Second Vatican Council, and is very much in the language of Pope Francis.

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