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The Apostolic Constitution ‘Praedicate Evangelium’ on the Roman Curia

Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ - La Civiltà Cattolica - Wed, May 4th 2022



Evangelization and the missionary nature of the Church

On March 19, 2022, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Pope Francis promulgated the apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium (PE) on the Roman curia and its service to the Church in today’s world.[1] It comes into effect on June 5, 2022, the Solemnity of Pentecost, repealing John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus (PB) of June 28, 1988.[2]

The opening words (incipit), Praedicate Evangelium indicate the perspective in which the constitution is to be read and the Roman curia understood.

The Preamble reveals Pope Francis’ purpose, “to better harmonize the present-day exercise of the curia’s service with the path of evangelization the Church is living at this time” (No. 3).

Pope Francis, taking up an expression contained in No. 30 of his November 24, 2013, apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG),[3] sees the Church in a “missionary conversion” that commits her to a renewal “according to the image of Christ’s own mission of love” and urges her to bring to people “the supernatural gift of faith” as the light that directs their journey at a time when they are particularly in need (Preamble, No. 2).

Thus, Pope Francis conceives of the reform of the Roman curia within the broader context of the reform of the Church, that is, her conversion to being missionary (Preamble, No. 3). In his address to the Roman curia on December 21, 2019,[4] he spoke of the heart of the reform being “the first and most important task of the Church: evangelization.” Then he reiterated what had already been affirmed in Evangelii Gaudium, that is, that the whole life and every structure of the Church can “be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world” and not a means of “self-preservation” (EG 27). The reform of structures, he continued, consists in “ensuring that they all become more mission-oriented, ” hence the requirement of a “pastoral conversion.”

In the same discourse, the current situation of the world was briefly outlined. If in the past one could clearly distinguish between an evangelized world – the Christian one – and a world yet to be evangelized – the non-Christian one – today populations that have never received the proclamation of the Gospel dwell everywhere and are found where until recently there was only the “Christian world.” Pope Francis pointed out that by now “we are not in Christendom.” In fact, we can say that what was once termed “Christianity” no longer exists, because faith no longer constitutes “an evident presupposition of life. ” Indeed, it is often even “rejected, derided, mocked and ridiculed.” Therefore, we must take note of a “deep crisis of faith,” due to “a progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God’.”[5]  All this, then, is a challenge that urges us “to find adequate means to re-propose the perennial truth of the Gospel of Christ.”

From this urgency to promote new evangelization derives the fact that in Praedicate Evangelium the first dicastery to be dealt with, immediately after the Secretariat of State, is the Dicastery for Evangelization which, bringing together the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, includes a Section for fundamental questions regarding evangelization in the world and another Section for first evangelization and the new individual  Churches (articles 53-68). This dicastery is followed by that for the doctrine of the faith (articles 69-78).

This seems to express the idea that only if the peoples of ancient Christian tradition are re-evangelized and the Gospel is proclaimed to peoples who have not yet received it, will the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith fulfill its task of “assisting the Roman pontiff and the bishops/eparchs in the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world, promoting and protecting the integrity of Catholic doctrine on faith and morals, drawing on the deposit of faith and also seeking an ever-deeper understanding of it in the face of new questions” (art. 69). The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was listed first in Pastor Bonus, immediately after the Secretariat of State.

Another novelty to highlight is the new Dicastery for the Service of Charity, which, according to Pastor Bonus, was an institution linked to the Holy See (art. 193) and which immediately follows the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. This seems to indicate that these three dicasteries, with distinct competencies, form a whole, expressing the missionary nature of the Church, which gives focus  to the entire Curia.

Communion and synodality. Decentralization

Another inspiring element of the reform is that of the Church as communion, an aspect that is closely linked to that of mission. Communion “gives the Church the face of synodality,” that is, that of a Church of mutual listening, in which all the faithful are involved who, whatever their state of life and their mission, walk together in reciprocity (Preamble, No. 4).

The note of reciprocity should bring the life of the Church today as close as possible to “the experience of missionary communion” which the apostles lived together with the Lord (ibid.). This is reflected in the gift that Christ gave to the Church, that of the union of the apostles, headed by Peter, and that of the union of their successors, the bishops, with the Roman pontiff, either as individuals or united in the episcopal college or in other forms of union (Preamble, Nos. 5-7). The Roman curia, as an aid to the Roman pontiff in the exercise of his primatial function, does not stand between him and the bishops, but rather is “at their full service” (Preamble, No. 9).

As  a body at the service of the Roman pontiff, “the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of the unity of both the bishops and of the faithful” (Lumen Gentium [LG], No. 23a), and therefore also at the service of the bishops and of the episcopal conferences, the activity of the Roman curia is carried out according to the spirit of a “healthy decentralization.” The bishops must be able to exercise with a sense of responsibility the faculties included in the office of head of the particular Churches which are entrusted to them, being “the visible principle and foundation of unity of their particular Churches” (LG 23a). In this way is applied “that co-responsibility which is the fruit and expression of that specific mysterium communionis which is the Church (cf. LG 8)” (Principles, No. 2).

By divine right, the diocesan bishop in the diocese entrusted to him has all the ordinary, proper and immediate power that is required for the exercise of his pastoral munus (can. 381 § 1; LG 27a; Christus Dominus [CD], No. 8a). Moreover, as John Paul II affirmed in No. 56 of the apostolic exhortation Pastores Gregis [PG] of October 16, 2003,[6] because of the full realization of the Church of Christ and her catholicity in each particular Church, the latter has in herself all the natural and supernatural means to fulfill the mission that Christ has entrusted to the whole Church. Therefore, we can say that the Church enjoys, by divine right, her own legitimate autonomy. But autonomy, as the capacity to govern itself, including the capacity to proclaim authentically the truths of faith (can. 753), is legitimate when it is regulated by the principle of communion, which is a hierarchical communion (can. 375 § 2; LG 21b; PG 56). Consequently, Pastores Gregis 56 states: “the bonds of hierarchical communion linking the bishops to the Apostolic See necessarily demand a coordination of responsibilities on the part of diocesan bishops and the supreme authority which is dictated by the nature of the Church herself. It is the same divine law which limits the exercise of both.” This coordination is expressed in that between particular law and universal or common law, including through the reservations established.

In conclusion, from the above we understand why Praedicate Evangelium speaks of “healthy decentralization” and not simply “decentralization.”[7]


Another principle to which the constitution refers is that of participation in relation to communion (Principle, No. 8). Participation expresses the relationship of that which by its nature realizes the totality (participated) with that which realizes only a part of the totality (participant). This constitutes at the same time the unity and diversity between the participant and the participated, in other words communion in differentiation. Participation entails different responsibilities between the subjects involved in the relationship: one is invested with full personal responsibility regarding a particular object, and thus has the power to decide; the others participate partially in that responsibility.

The Roman curia, as a group of dicasteries and offices, assisting the Roman pontiff in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office, works for the good and service of communion, unity and the building up of the universal Church (cann. 360; 334; CD 9a; PB 1; PE art. 1). The function of the Roman curia, in fact, must be understood in a pastoral rather than a bureaucratic-administrative sense, inasmuch as it springs from the same service which in charity the Successor of Peter, the supreme pastor of the whole Church, following the model of the Good Shepherd, performs for the benefit of ecclesial communion (PB 1-3; 33; 34; PE art. 3). The Roman curia, then, because of its instrumental and vicarious character with respect to the Roman pontiff – whereby it does not act in  its own right or on its own initiative, but in the name of the Roman pontiff, on whose will all its work depends, but acts with an ordinary vicarious power (Principles, No. 5) – is clearly an organ of participation in the government of the universal Church.[8] Since, by the will of the Lord, the hierarchical structure of the Church is both collegial and primatial (PB 2), the service of the Roman curia is also in an organic relationship with the bishops, in such a way that, as an instrument of communion and participation on their part in ecclesial concerns, it is an implementation of the collegial affection between the two (PB 8 and 9; PG 8; Preamble, n. 9; Principles, Nos. 1; 3; 9).

This participatory dimension is realized in the periodic meetings of the heads of dicasteries, individually or jointly, with the Roman pontiff (Principles, n. 8; art. 24; 34; 35), in interdicasterial meetings (Principles, n. 9), in the joint treatment of matters of mixed competence of more than one dicastery (art. 28), in the meetings of the members of a dicastery and in the meetings of the bishops with the dicasteries on the occasion of ad limina visits (Principles, No. 4), in the participation of the laity, clerics and members of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life in the work within individual dicasteries (Principles, Nos. 5; 7).

Among the dicasteries and other offices, and within the individual dicasteries and offices, communion must be achieved through the realization of the “principle of convergence.” This will be possible if the dicasteries, bodies and offices, which are all to be considered juridically equal to one another (art. 12 § 1), act in awareness of the unity of the mission in which they participate, which is that of the universal ministry of the Roman pontiff, and thus develop mutual collaboration among themselves (art. 9 § 1). This principle is also to be implemented within each department, body and office, so that the work of each one, despite cultural, linguistic and national differences, is to be carried out in collaboration and convergence toward the one goal (art. 9 § 2).

Within each dicastery, a special instrument of participation is to be found in the ordinary sessions of the members residing in Rome, for customary or frequent business, and the plenary sessions, for business and matters of greater importance or principle, which must be held at least every two years, and in which all members participate (art. 26).


While John Paul II identified collegiality and synodality, restricting the latter to the College of Bishops, Pope Francis has expanded  the notion of synodality to the whole Church, so he considers collegiality an eminent expression of synodality, but not the only one.[9]

All of the above expressions of participation, in Pope Francis’ new vision, can be considered examples of synodality.

In the apostolic constitution Episcopalis Communio (EC) of September 18, 2018,[10] synodality embraces the whole Church, being considered its “constitutive dimension” (EC 6).[11] Synodality “indicates the specific modus vivendi et operandi of the Church as the People of God, which manifests and realizes in practical terms its being communion in walking together, in gathering in assembly, and in the active participation of all its members in its evangelizing mission.”[12] Synodality, then, touches not only the action of the Church, but also her being, because it touches on her constituting herself as a communion in the image of the Trinity and as an assembly that celebrates the mystery of salvation in an eschatological perspective.[13]

Thus, while synodality involves “the involvement and participation of the whole People of God in the life and mission of the Church,”[14] collegiality is a reality limited to the episcopal body because it indicates a form of the exercise of the episcopal ministry.

Pope Francis’ starting point is the vision of the Church as the people of God; and, as in Lumen Gentium,[15] the episcopate is included and must be understood within the context of the whole people of God, hence the complementary relationship between the baptismal priesthood and the ministerial priesthood (cf. LG 10b; PG 10). In fact, Episcopalis Communio says in No. 5, the bishop is “at the same time teacher and disciple.” On the one hand, he is an authentic doctor and teacher when he teaches in matters of faith and morals, and the faithful must adhere with religious obedience to such authentic exercise of the  magisterium; on the other hand, he is a disciple, when, like every other baptized person, “he listens to the voice of Christ speaking through the entire people of God, making it ‘infallible in credendo’.”[16] It follows that one cannot make a rigid separation between the Ecclesia docens and the Ecclesia discens.[17]

In the Church, then – according to Pope Francis’ vision – “as in an inverted pyramid, the summit is below the base,” so the term “ministers,” which is applied to pastors, indicates that they “are the lowest of all.” By serving the people of God, each pastor “becomes vicarius Christi,” that is, vicar of that Christ who washed the feet of the apostles (cf. John 13:1-15); in the same way the successor of Peter is servus servorum Dei.[18] Certainly the bishop is objectively, “vicar of Christ,” by virtue of the sacrament he receives, but subjectively he becomes even more so by the witness he gives to the whole people of God in serving them (PG 11; 31; 43).

The vision of the “inverted pyramid” corresponds to the vision of synodal communion between “all,” “some” and “one,”[19] which suggests an image of the Church – and therefore of ecclesial communion – as in concentric circles. At the universal level, “all” are the baptized, “some” are the bishops, “one” is the Roman pontiff, considered personally and also with the College of Bishops in its unity.

From this concentric vision flows the consideration that “all the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients.”[20] This leads back to what we have already said about the sensus fidei and the fact that the people of God is “infallible ‘in credendo’.”

This vision of the Church expresses  the idea of synodality – a constitutive dimension of the Church – as the walking together of the whole people of God in their various components, listening to the word of God animated by the Spirit, which accompanies  the discernment of what Christ wants in a given historical moment (EC 5; 7; 8).[21]

This vision is made operative in the various forms of participation in the organization and action of the Roman curia, because it ensures that in some way all of God’s people can participate in decisions.[22]

Structure of the Roman curia

First of all, it should be noted that in Pastor Bonus, under the category of  “dicasteries” we find the Secretariat of State, the Congregations, the Tribunals, the Councils and the Offices (PB, art. 2 § 1); instead in Praedicate Evangelium we find the Secretariat of State, the Dicasteries, the Bodies and the Offices (PE art. 12 § 1). The Secretariat of State is not included among the Dicasteries, and the distinction between the Congregations and the Pontifical Councils, which was found in Pastor Bonus, disappears. This distinction was basically due to the exercise of the power of jurisdiction by the former and not by the latter, even though the Council for the Laity exercised it in approving the statutes of associations, in the oversight of public associations, in the dismissal of moderators, and similar functions.

Another change is the order of the dicasteries, which in some respects differs from that of Pastor Bonus.

We have already mentioned what we think is the significance of  the Dicastery for Evangelization being placed immediately after the Secretariat of State, followed by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, within which the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is established. The placing of the Dicastery for Charity  third is probably intended to draw attention to the fact that the proclamation and correct profession of faith must become operative in charity. Furthermore, the centrality of evangelization is highlighted by the fact that the Dicastery for Evangelization is presided over directly by the Roman pontiff, and each of the two sections of which it is composed is governed in his name and by his authority by a pro-prefect (art. 54).[23]

The other dicasteries follow: for the Oriental Churches; for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; for the Causes of Saints; for Bishops; for the Clergy; for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; for Laity, Family and Life (in which the competencies that belonged to the Pontifical Council for the Laity and that for the Family and the Pontifical Academy for Life converge); for the Promotion of Christian Unity; for Interreligious Dialogue; for Culture and Education (in which the competencies of the Pontifical Council for Culture and those of the Congregation for Catholic Education are united); for the Service of Integral Human Development (which unifies the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, “Cor Unum,” that of the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants and that of the Pastoral Care of Healthcare Workers); for Legislative Texts; and for Communication. While in Pastor Bonus there were 21 congregations and dicasteries, there are now 16 dicasteries. It is hoped that the unification into a single dicastery of the competencies of several dicasteries will lead to a simplification of work.

The bodies of justice are the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

The economic bodies follow: the Council for the Economy, the Secretariat for the Economy, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), the Office of the Auditor General, the Commission for Confidential Matters, and the Investment Committee. While in Pastor Bonus there were 3 bodies, now there are 6.

The Offices are: the Prefecture of the Papal Household; the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff; the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church. While in Pastor Bonus the Offices were called “Other Bodies of the Roman Curia” and there were 2, now there are 3, because they include the Apostolic Camera.

Some particular issues. Role of the laity and vicarious character of the curia

An innovative aspect of the constitution is the role of the laity within the Roman curia. No. 5 of the Principles states: “Every curial institution carries out its own mission by virtue of the power received from the Roman pontiff in whose name it acts with vicarious power in the exercise of his primatial munus. For this reason any member of the faithful may preside over a dicastery or body, given their particular competence, power of governance and function.”

The “vicarious character” of the Roman curia, already affirmed by Pastor Bonus 8, is reaffirmed. By virtue of the vicarious power received from the Roman pontiff, the curial institutions are empowered to intervene in an authoritative manner by competence regarding the matter involved, either at the request of the bishops or on their own initiative, should it be necessary.

From this follows the other affirmation, effectively innovative, that any member of the faithful – therefore, even a layman or woman – can preside over a department or body of the curia, but “in view of the particular competence, governing power and function of the latter.”[24] It is made clear that whoever is in charge of a department or other body of the curia does not have authority because of the hierarchical rank with which he or she is invested, but because of the power received from the Roman pontiff and exercised in his name. If the prefect and secretary of a dicastery are bishops, this should not lead to the misunderstanding that their authority comes from the hierarchical rank they have received, as if they were acting with their own power and not with the vicarious power conferred on them by the Roman pontiff. The vicarious power to carry out an office is the same if it is received by a bishop, a presbyter, a consecrated man or woman, or a layman or woman.

Moreover, in Praedicate Evangelium art. 15 it is stated that members of curial institutions, in addition to cardinals, bishops, presbyters and deacons, can also be “some members of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life and some lay faithful,” and it does not add what was found in the corresponding art. 7 of Pastor Bonus, which specified: “but without prejudice to the fact that the affairs which require the exercise of the power of governance must be reserved to those who are in  holy orders.” According to Praedicate Evangelium art. 15, the laity can also carry out such affairs, exercising the ordinary vicarious power of governance received from the Roman pontiff through the conferral of office.

This confirms that the power of governance in the Church does not come from the sacrament of Orders, but from the canonical mission. This finds its foundation first of all in canon 129 § 2 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which states: “In the exercise of the same power [mentioned in § 1, i.e., that of government or jurisdiction to which clerics are qualified] the lay faithful can cooperate in accordance with the norm of law.”

What is said in Praedicate Evangelium is of great importance because the question of the admission of the laity to the exercise of the power of governance in the Church involves a broader issue  If the power of governance is conferred by the sacrament of Orders, the laity cannot receive any office in the Church which involves the exercise of this power. The Second Vatican Council did not want to settle the question in the sense of the origin of this power in the sacrament of Orders, having changed the only text in  LG – the beginning of No. 28 – which had remained formulated in that sense.[25]

During the process of reforming the Code of Canon Law the question was again discussed, and at the Plenary Congregation of the Enlarged Commission, held on October 20-29, 1981, a request was made to suppress the current canons 129 § 2 and 1421 § 2[26] on the basis of the affirmation of the Second Vatican Council that all the power of governance in the Church has its origin in the Sacrament of Orders. The two canons remained. The Commission rejected the request because it did not appear that the Council had affirmed this.[27]

John Paul II, in No. 43 of Pastores Gregis, referring to can. 381 § 1 CIC 1983 and to can. 178 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO), explicitly affirmed that the bishop “is invested, by virtue of the office he has received, with an objective juridical power, destined to express itself in authoritative acts through which to implement the ministry of government (munus pastorale) received in the Sacrament.”[28]

The fact, then, that can. 1673 § 3 of Pope Francis’ motu proprio Mitis Iudex of August 15, 2015,[29] admits that out of a college of three judges two may be lay persons, while providing that the president must be a cleric,  reinforces the norm of can. 1421 § 2 of the CIC, because it cannot be doubted that the laity, exercising the power of judicial government received with the canonical mission, determine the nullity or otherwise of the marriage in question. Praedicate Evangelium settles the question of the capacity of the laity to receive offices involving the exercise of the power of governance in the Church, provided that they do not require the reception of Holy Orders, and indirectly affirms that the power of governance in the Church does not come from the sacrament of Orders, but from the canonical mission; otherwise, what is provided for in the apostolic constitution itself would not be possible.

Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established by Pope Francis on March 22, 2014,[30] with the aim of proposing to the Roman pontiff the most appropriate initiatives for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults and to promote, together with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the responsibility of the individual Churches in this area. According to art. 1 § 1 of the Statute, it was an autonomous institution, linked to the Holy See, with public juridical personality (cf. can. 116).

Now, with art. 78 of Praedicate Evangelium, it is instituted within the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (§ 1), with the same consultative function and the same purposes it had (§ 2). In this way the Commission becomes an effective part of the Roman curia, while retaining a certain autonomy, because it is presided over by a delegated president and a secretary, appointed for a period of five years by the Roman pontiff (§ 4), has its own officers and operates according to its own norms (§ 5).

This integration in the Roman curia shows special attention to the issue at hand and indicates how much the Church is working to prevent such serious crimes from continuing to be perpetrated.

A clear sign of the Church’s maturation regarding sexual abuse was the reform of Book VI of the Code of Canon Law on sanctions, desired by Pope Francis, in that the apostolic constitution Pascite Gregem Dei, of May 23, 2021,[31] in can. 1398 marks out  the crime of sexual abuse,  placing it under Title VI, which deals with “crimes against life, dignity and human freedom,” and not under Title V on “crimes against special obligations” (ecclesiastical celibacy), as was the case with canon 1395 CIC 1983. Furthermore, canon 1398 considers as perpetrators  of this crime not only clerics – as is the case with canon 1395 CIC 1983 – but also members of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life and “any member of the faithful who enjoys a dignity or performs an office or function in the Church.”

The new constitution unifies two functions: the Pontifical Commission has the task of preventing such crimes, while the Disciplinary Section of the dicastery has the task of conducting criminal proceedings against those who commit them.

Economic bodies

These are bodies that were all established by Pope Francis,[32] except for the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which, however, was renewed by him.[33] They are closely interconnected on the basis of the criterion of a clear distinction between administrative and financial competencies and those of control.

APSA is responsible for both the administration and the financial management of the movable and immovable property of the Holy See and, through the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), of the bodies that have entrusted the administration of their property to the latter. On the other hand, the Secretariat for the Economy, as Papal Secretariat, is responsible, through two distinct functional areas, for the control and supervision in administrative and financial matters of all curial institutions, offices and institutions connected with the Holy See: therefore, also of APSA, as well as of the Obolo di San Pietro ( Peter’s Pence) and other papal funds (art. 212; 213 § 2). The Council for the Economy is a supervisory body in the same sphere as the Secretariat for the Economy, but it performs a consultative function, “adhering to internationally recognized best practices in public administration, with the aim of ethical and efficient administrative and financial management” (art. 205). The annual budget and the final consolidated budget of the Holy See are prepared by the Secretariat for the Economy (art. 215.3), but are approved by the Council for the Economy, which submits them to the Roman pontiff (art. 209 § 1). Furthermore, “the Secretariat for the Economy approves every act of alienation, purchase or extraordinary administration carried out by the curial institutions and by the offices and institutions connected with the Holy See or referring to it, its approval ad validitatem, is according to the criteria determined by the Council for the Economy” (art. 218 § 1; 208).

The Auditor General, who acts in complete autonomy and independence (Statute, art. 2 § 1), is responsible for auditing the consolidated financial statements of the Holy See, and thus all the annual financial statements of the individual institutions and curial offices, as well as the institutions connected with the Holy See or that refer to it (art. 222; 223 § 1). In addition, it conducts audits of “anomalies in the use or allocation of financial or material resources; irregularities in the granting of contracts or in the conduct of transactions or disposals; acts of corruption or fraud” (art. 224 § 1).

The Commission for Reserved Matters, on the one hand, authorizes any act of a juridical, economic or financial nature which, for the greater good of the Church or of individuals, must be conducted in secrecy and also removed from the control and supervision of the competent bodies; on the other hand, it controls and supervises the contracts of the Holy See which, according to law, require confidentiality (art. 225). Finally, the Investment Committee is a consultative body, whose task is “to guarantee the ethical nature of the Holy See’s movable investments” (art. 227).

We also recall that with the motu proprio Una migliore organizzazione of December 26, 2020,[34] Pope Francis sanctioned the transfer of the management of economic and financial functions from the Secretariat of State to APSA, entrusting control to the Secretariat for the Economy.


I conclude with No. 12, from the Preamble of the Constitution: “The reform is not an end in itself, but a means to give a strong Christian witness; to foster a more effective evangelization; to promote a more fruitful ecumenical spirit; to encourage a more constructive dialogue with all. […] It will have to clarify  even more the identity of the Roman curia itself, namely, that of assisting the Successor of Peter in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the good and service of the universal Church and of the particular Churches. This is an exercise by which the unity of the faith and the communion of the people of God are strengthened and the mission proper to the Church in the world is promoted. […] Achieving such a goal […] requires time, determination and above all the collaboration of all. […] We must above all entrust ourselves to the Holy Spirit, who is the true guide of the Church, imploring in prayer the gift of authentic discernment.”[35]

[1].    Cf. Apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium on the Roman Curia and its Service to the Church and the World”, English translation forthcoming

[2].    Cf. AAS 80 (1988) 841-912.

[3].    Cf. AAS 105 (2013) 1019-1137.

[4].    Cf. Oss. Rom., Dec. 22, 2019, 4f.

[5].    Here Pope Francis refers to Benedict XVI’s homily of June 28, 2010 (cf. Insegnamenti di Benedetto XVI, VI, 2, 2010, Vatican City, Libr. Ed. Vaticana, 2011, 987).

[6].    Cf. AAS 96 (2004) 825-927.

[7]. An implementation of this decentralization took place with the motu proprio Assegnare alcune competenze of February 11, 2022, by which some canons of the Code of Canon Law (CIC) were changed in this sense: cf. Oss. Rom., February 15, 2022.

[8].    The power of the Roman Curia in general is administrative, in the case of dicasteries; or judicial, in the case of tribunals (PE Art. 31; Art. 177f).

[9]  .   Cf. International Theological Commission, “De Synodalitate in vita ac munere Ecclesiae”, March 2, 2018, No. 7, in Communicationes 50 (2018) 180-236.

[10].   See AAS 110 (2018) 1359-1378.

[11].   Cf. Francis, “Address in Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops,” October 17, 2015, at

[12].   Cf. International Theological Commission, “De Synodalitate…”, op. cit., No. 6.

[13].   Cf. A. Spadaro – C. Galli, “La sinodalità nella vita e nella missione della Chiesa”, in Civ. Catt. 2018 IV 60f.

[14].   Cf. International Theological Commission, “De Synodalitate…”, op. cit., No. 7.

[15].   After having dealt with the mystery of the Church in ch. I, Lumen Gentium treats of the Church as the people of God in ch. II; then in ch. III of the hierarchical constitution of the Church, and in particular of the episcopate.

[16].   Cf. LG 12a; Francis, Apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, November 24, 2013, No. 119, in AAS 105 (2013) 1019-1137; Id., “Address for the Conclusion of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops”, October 18, 2014, in Oss. Rom., October 20-21, 2014, 5.

[17].   Cf. Id., “Address in Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops,” op. cit.

[18].   Cf. ibid., 1142.

[19].   Cf. International Theological Commission, “De Synodalitate…”, op. cit., No. 64.

[20].   Cf. Francis, “Address in Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops”, op. cit.

[21].   Cf. A. Spadaro – C. Galli, “La sinodalità nella vita e nella missione della Chiesa”, op. cit., 65f.

[22].   For an in-depth look at Pope Francis’ vision of a synodal Church, cf. G. Ghirlanda, “The Apostolic Constitution ‘Episcopalis communio’: Synod of Bishops and Synodality”, in Periodica 108 (209) 621-669.

[23].   The apostolic constitution Sapienti Consilio of Pius X, of June 29, 1908, provided that the Roman Pontiff preside over the congregation of the Holy Office (I, 1.1: cf. ASS 41, 1908, 425-490). This was abolished by Paul VI with the apostolic constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae of August 15, 1967 (cf. AAS 59, 1967, 885-928).

[24].   It is evident that there are dicasteries which, because of their nature and purpose, require that the prefect be a bishop and the secretary at least a presbyter; there are others, however, for which it is appropriate that these offices be held by laymen or laywomen.

[25].   Cf. Acta Synodalia III/I, 225; III/VIII, 96f.

[26].   This canon provides for a lay judge in a three-judge court.

[27]. Pontificium Consilium de Legum Textibus Interpretandis, Congregatio Plenaria diebus 20-29 octobris 1981 habita, Vatican City 1991, 35-38.

[28].   Cf. AAS 96 (2004) 825-927. Along the same lines are Nos. 8 and 9 of the same exhortation and Nos. 12, 64 and 159 of the Directory Apostolorum Successores from the Congregation for Bishops of February 22, 2004: cf. Enchiridion Vaticanum 22/1567-2159. It should be noted that the supporters of the origin from the sacrament of the Order of the power of governance do so on the basis of the identification between munus and potestas, due to the incorrect interpretation of n. 21b of the dogmatic constitution LG.

[29].   See AAS 107 (2015) 958-970.

[30].   See AAS 107 (2015) 562-563.

[31].   Cf. Oss. Rom., June 1, 2021, 2f.

[32].   Cf. Francis, Motu proprio Fidelis Dispensator et Prudens, February 24, 2014, in AAS 106 (2014) 164f; Id., Motu proprio Confermando una tradizione, July 8, 2014; Id., Motu proprio I beni temporali, July 4, 2016, in AAS 108 (2016) 962-965. The statutes of the Council for the Economy, the Secretariat for the Economy, and the Office of the Auditor General were approved by Pope Francis in, respectively, the motu proprio Il Consiglio per l’Economia, February 22, 2015; the motu proprio La Segreteria per l’Economia, February 22, 2015; and the motu proprio L’Ufficio del Revisore Generale, in Enchiridion Vaticanum 31/153-262.

[33].   Cf. Motu proprio Confermando una tradizione, July 8, 2014.

[34].   Cf. Oss. Rom., December 28, 2020, 11.

[35].   This text is taken from the greeting that Pope Francis addressed to the cardinals gathered for the Consistory of February 12, 2015: cf. Oss. Rom., February 13, 2015, 8.

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