26 November 2023, The Tablet

Pope adds married couples, Church movement reps to laity and family office

by Ruth Gledhill , Jonathan Liedl, CNA

Pope Francis is still intending to travel to Dubai this week although he has mild flu.

Pope adds married couples, Church movement reps to laity and family office

A giant screen broadcasts Pope Francis delivering his blessing during the Angelus noon prayer, from the chapel of the hotel at the Vatican grounds where he lives.
AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Pope Francis has added 11 new members to the Vatican office that focuses on the lay apostolate and family life, with two married couples and four figures affiliated with ecclesial movements highlighting the selections. 

The Vatican announced the pope’s picks to the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life yesterday as the Vatican said he was suffering from a mild flu. Pope Francis went to the hospital yesterday afternoon for precautionary testing after coming down with the flu earlier in the day. He later said he had lung inflammation.

“In the early hours of the afternoon, Pope Francis underwent a CT scan at the Gemelli Isola Hospital in Rome, to exclude the risk of pulmonary complications,” the Holy See Press Office said. “The test gave a negative result and the pope returned to Casa Santa Marta.” 

The announcement of the pope’s hospital visit followed an earlier communication from the Vatican that the pope would not take part in his scheduled meetings on Saturday morning due to illness.

“The Holy Father’s audiences scheduled for this morning are canceled due to a mild flu,” the Holy See Press Office said.

Pope Francis is still intending to travel to Dubai this week for the climate change conference although he skipped his weekly Sunday appearance in St Peter’s Square.

New members of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life include the Taiwanese couple Joseph Teyu Chou, a professor of finance, and Clare Jiayann Yeh, the founder and director of the local bishops’ Marriage and Family Pastoral Center.

Another married couple picked for the dicastery comes from France – Benoit and Véronique Rabourdin. The two are the international managers of the Amour and Vérité marriage and family ministry, an initiative of the Emmanuel Community, a French-founded public association of the faithful.

The French and Taiwanese couples join a Polish couple already serving as members of the dicastery for a total of three sets of spouses among the Vatican office’s 28 members.

In addition to the Emmanuel Community-affiliated Rabourdins, Pope Francis also added other members associated with ecclesial movements.

Father Andrea D’Auria directs the international center of the lay movement Communion and Liberation and is a member of the movement’s associated Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo.

Founded in Italy and with about 60,000 enrolled members throughout the world, Communion and Liberation recently came into conflict with the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life over its plan for leadership succession, with prefect Cardinal Kevin Farrell eventually intervening to appoint its president in 2022.

Margaret Karram, president of the Work of Mary (Focolare Movement), a participant in the recent Synod on Synodality assembly at the Vatican, was also added as a new member to the dicastery, as was Father Luis Felipe Navarro Marfá, the rector of the Opus Dei-run University of the Sacred Heart in Rome.

The Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life oversees most Catholic movements and maintains the International Associations of the Faithful Directory.

Three laywomen academics are also among the new members: Ana María Celis Brunet, an expert in abuse prevention from Chile; Maria Luisa Di Pietro, who directs the Center for Research and Studies on Procreative Health at University of the Sacred Heart; and Carmen Peña Garcia, a Spanish professor of marriage law.

In total, eight of the Vatican office’s 28 members are now women. In 2018, Pope Francis emphasized that the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life should promote a deeper reflection of the role of women in the Church and society.

The lone prelate added to the dicastery was Archbishop Josep Àngel Saiz Meneses of Seville, Spain. Eleven of the dicastery’s members now belong to the episcopacy, including Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the American cardinals Robert McElroy (San Diego) and Wilton Gregory (Washington, D.C.). 

The Dicastery of Laity, Family, and Life was created in 2016 when Pope Francis combined the former pontifical councils for the laity and the family. According to its statutes, the dicastery has the responsibility “for the promotion of life and the apostolate of the lay faithful, for the pastoral care of the young, family and its mission, following God’s plan and for the protection and support of human life.”


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