New Catholic constitution focuses on missionary evangelism

Praedicate Evangelium opens door for appointment of more laypeople.

Pope Francis holds weekly audience at the Vatican, December 2, 2020. (photo credit: VATICAN MEDIA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Pope Francis holds weekly audience at the Vatican, December 2, 2020.

Pope Francis issued a long-awaited document reforming the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church on Saturday.

Along with allowing Catholic laymen and women to run most of the departments inside the Vatican, the document also says Rome is to serve local churches and established an office to fight sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. 

Last Saturday, on the Feast of St. Joseph and the anniversary of Francis being installed as Pope, the Pope released Praedicate Evangelium, or “Preach the Gospel,” the new constitution for the Roman Curia.  Pope Francis and his cardinal advisors have been working on the document for more than nine years in consultation with local bishops’ conferences. 

The constitution aims to ensure that the oldest bureaucracy in the world, the Roman Curia, focuses on missionary evangelism, along with making changes within the structure of the bureaucracy. Predicate Evangelium clearly states that this cannot be left solely to the monsignors, bishops and cardinals. 

The Pope’s new constitution states that “any member of the faithful” can head one of the Vatican dicasteries that have been newly constituted or other bodies, “given their particular competence, power of governance and function.” 

“Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia opens the way for Catholics who are not clergy to hold the top leadership positions, a move the Pope already had begun when reorganizing individual offices,” Cindy Wooden, Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service, explained to The Jerusalem Post. “For example, six of the seven upper management people at the Dicastery for Communication are laymen or laywomen. And women serve as secretary or undersecretary of several offices. 

“While the appointment of more laypeople is expected to be gradual, the Pope’s new constitution for the Roman Curia is meant to contribute their expertise and talents for the good of the Church and the people it serves,” she said.

While cardinals and archbishops lead the majority of Vatican offices, Predicate Evangelism states that laymen and women can be appointed to head a dicastery department if Pope Francis appoints them to the office. However, because of the ban on women being ordained, an office overseeing the appointments of clergy and bishops will likely continue being led by bishops and cardinals. 

The new constitution will not take effect until June 5, 2022.