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A pontifical council is a mid-sized department or dicastery of the Roman Curia, the central organization responsible for assisting the pope in the governance and oversight of Catholic Church. Such a council has a cardinal or archbishop as its president and is restricted in its activities in comparison with the larger parts of the Curia.
The active pontifical councils are:
Pope Francis has undertaken a reorganization of the Roman Curia that has eliminated several councils by incorporating their activities into parts of the curia with broader responsibilities. On 29 June 2016, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, which was created on 30 January 1948, were assumed by the Secretariat for Communications.On 1 September 2016, the Pontifical Council for the Family, established 9 May 1981, and the Pontifical Council for the Laity, established 6 January 1967, were assumed by the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. On 1 January 2017, these four pontifical councils were assumed by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
The Roman Curia comprises the administrative institutions of the Holy See and the central body through which the affairs of the Catholic Church are conducted. It acts in the Pope's name and with his authority for the good and for the service of the particular churches and provides the central organization for the church to advance its objectives.
A dicastery is a department of the Roman Curia, the administration of the Holy See through which the pope directs the Roman Catholic Church. The most recent comprehensive constitution of the church, Pastor bonus (1988), includes this definition:
By the word "dicasteries" are understood the Secretariat of State, Congregations, Tribunals, Councils and Offices, namely, the Apostolic Camera, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
The Secretariat of State is the oldest dicastery in the Roman Curia, the central papal governing bureaucracy of the Catholic Church. It is headed by the Cardinal Secretary of State and performs all the political and diplomatic functions of the Holy See. The Secretariat is divided into three sections, the Section for General Affairs, the Section for Relations with States, and, since 2017, the Section for Diplomatic Staff.
In the Roman Curia, a congregation is a type of department of the Curia. They are second highest-ranking departments, ranking below the two Secretariats, and above the pontifical councils, pontifical commissions, tribunals and offices.
The Pontifical Council Cor Unum for Human and Christian Development was a dicastery of the Roman Curia of the Catholic Church from 1971 to 2016.
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace was a dicastery of the Roman Curia dedicated to "action-oriented studies" for the international promotion of justice, peace, and human rights from the perspective of the Roman Catholic Church. To this end, it cooperates with various religious institutes and advocacy groups, as well as scholarly, ecumenical, and international organizations.
The Pontifical Council for the Family was part of the Curia of the Roman Catholic Church from 1981 to 2016. It was established by Pope John Paul II on 9 May 1981 with his motu proprio Familia a Deo Instituta, replacing the Committee for the Family that Pope Paul VI had established in 1973. The Council fostered "the pastoral care of families, protects their rights and dignity in the Church and in civil society, so that they may ever be more able to fulfill their duties."
The Pontifical Council for Culture is a dicastery of the Roman Curia charged with fostering the relationship of the Catholic Church with different cultures. Pope John Paul II founded it on 20 May 1982. He later merged the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers with it.
The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers was set up on 11 February 1985 by Pope John Paul II who reformed the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers into its new form in 1988. It was part of the Roman Curia.
Pastor bonus is an apostolic constitution promulgated by Pope John Paul II on 28 June 1988. It instituted a number of reforms in the process of running the central government of the Roman Catholic Church, as article 1 states "The Roman Curia is the complex of dicasteries and institutes which help the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the good and service of the whole Church and of the particular Churches. It thus strengthens the unity of the faith and the communion of the people of God and promotes the mission proper to the Church in the world".
The Pontifical Council for Social Communications was a dicastery of the Roman Curia that was suppressed in March 2016 and merged into the Secretariat for Communications.
Stanisław Marian Ryłko is a Polish Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He held positions in the Roman Curia beginning in 1987 and was president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity from 2003 to 2016. He was made a cardinal in 2007. He has been Archpriest of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore since 28 December 2016.
The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People was a dicastery of the Roman Curia. The Council, established by Pope John Paul II on 28 June 1988, was dedicated to the spiritual welfare of migrant and itinerant people.
The Pontifical Council for the Laity was a unit of the Roman Catholic Curia from 1967 to 2016. It had the responsibility of assisting the Pope in his dealings with the laity in lay ecclesial movements or individually, and their contributions to the Church. Its last Cardinal President from 4 October 2003 to 31 August 2016 was Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko. Its undersecretary from 1967 to 1976 was Professor Rosemary Goldie, the first woman to be the Undersecretary of a Pontifical Council and the highest-ranking woman in the Roman Curia at the time. Another layman, Professor Guzman Carriquiry Lecour, was undersecretary from 1991 to 2011.
Antonio Maria Vegliò is an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, who has served as Vatican diplomat and in the Roman Curia. He was President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants. Vegliò was created a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI on 18 February 2012.
Catholic laity are the ordinary members of the Catholic Church who are neither clergy nor recipients of Holy Orders or vowed to life in a religious order or congregation. The laity forms the majority of the estimated over one billion Catholics in the world.
The Council of Cardinals (C9), is a group of Catholic cardinals appointed by Pope Francis to serve as his advisers. Announced on 13 April 2013, one month after his election, it was formally established on 28 September of the same year. The Council currently has six members, following the decision by Pope Francis to remove three of its members in late 2018.
The Dicastery for Communication is a division (dicastery) of the Roman Curia with authority over all communication offices of the Holy See and the Vatican City State, Its various offices can be accessed through its website. These are the Pope's website and other offices such as Vatican News on internet, the Holy See Press Office, L'Osservatore Romano, Photograph Service, Vatican Radio, Vatican Press, and the Vatican Publishing House. The Pontifical Council for Social Communications has been subsumed into this new Dicastery.
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." The statutes governing this new body had been approved on 4 June 2016. A revised statue was published on 8 May 2018, effective 13 May. 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.
The Vatican announced the creation of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development on 31 August 2016 and it became effective 1 January 2017. Cardinal Peter K. A. Turkson was named its first prefect. The Prefect is to be assisted by a Secretary and at least one Undersecretary.