Vatican

Pope himself will temporarily lead new department for migrants

Various pontifical councils merged to form new dicastery for 'integral human development'

Pope himself will temporarily lead new department for migrants

AFP PHOTO / POOL / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

The new dicastery “serving integral human development,” which merges a number of pontifical councils, was established today. For the moment, however, Pope Francis has decided that he will be personally in charge of the department dedicated to migrants and refugees.

His choice comes as a response to the current crisis in this field. It is a way to highlight the importance of this issue and to show the Pope’s personal commitment. The Bishop of Rome will only hold direct responsibility “ad tempus” in other words, temporarily. Bergoglio will have two deputies who will answer directly to him. So, although the merger involves the current Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People – until today headed by Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò – becoming one of the sections of the new dicastery, its importance has been highlighted even more by today’s decision, which sees the Pope himself acting as its special ambassador.

As is known, the initiatives Francis has carried through in the migration field during his pontificate have been numerous: his first visit outside Rome in July 2013 was to Lampedusa. The Pope was shocked and moved by the news reports about the sinking ships in the Mediterranean and all the women and children who died and are now buried at the bottom of the sea. As the phenomenon ballooned due to the conflict in Syria, Bergoglio invited each parish to take in a family of refugees. On 16 April 2016, Francis decided to show his solidarity with refugees, by visiting Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, along with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, and the Orthodox Archbishop of Athens, Ieronymos. On the return journey to Rome, he surprised everyone by taking 12 refugees back with him on board the papal plane.

Francis has nominated Ghanaian cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson as head of the new dicastery “serving integral human development”. Until today, the cardinal served as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which was also due to become part of the new single structure. The C9, the Council of Cardinals assisting the Pope with Curia reform and the government of the universal Church, delivered the final proposal for this dicastery to the Pope last June. Until then, it was referred to by its working title “Charity, Justice and Peace”. In addition to the two pontifical councils already mentioned (those for migrants and justice and peace), the new dicastery will also incorporate Cor Unum and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.

The new body will be operative as of this coming January 1st. Paragraph 4 of the first article of the dicastery’s statute, mentions the unprecedented duty the Pope has taken on. It is a first in the history of the Holy See. “One of the dicastery’s sections deals specifically with issues relating to refugees and migrants. This section will be under the ad tempus leadership of the Supreme Pontiff, who will exercise this role in the ways which he deems fit.”

This article is being updated…