Vatican City, 4 June 2016 – Today, following a proposal made by the College of Cardinals, the Holy Father has approved ad experimentum the statute of the new dicastery for the laity, family and life, which will merge from 1 September 2016 the existing Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family. On that date both dicasteries will cease their functions and will be suppressed, following the repeal of articles 131-134 and 139-141 of the apostolic constitution Pastor bonus of 28 June 1988.
The new statute establishes, among other things, that the dicastery shall have competence in those areas pertaining to the Apostolic See for the promotion of life and the 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 aforementioned dicastery shall be presided over by a prefect, assisted by a secretary, who may be a layperson, and three lay under-secretaries, and will be granted a suitable number of officials, both clerical and lay, chosen as far as possible from different regions of the world, in accordance with the current legislation of the Roman Curia. The dicastery will be divided into three sections: for the lay faithful, for the family, and for life, each one guided by an under-secretary.
Catholic News Service reports that when Pope Francis met members of the International Union of Superiors General, the leadership group for superiors of women's orders, on May 12, he accepted a proposal that he establish a commission to study the role of New Testament deaconesses and the possibility of women serving as deacons today.
Pope Francis told the sisters that he thought it would be a good idea to form a commission "to take up this question again in order to view it with greater clarity," Father Lombardi said. "But one must be honest: The pope did not say he intends to introduce a diaconal ordination for women and even less did he speak of the priestly ordination of women. In fact, talking about preaching during the eucharistic celebration, he let them know that he was not considering this possibility at all."
On hearing the frenzy created by the media, CCRI received a request from the Huffington Post to comment. Rene Reid, CCRI Director, said
“We support any move towards greater inclusion of women in the church but recognize that this will be a slow and gradual evolution. For the Vatican to entertain reopening the diaconate to women as was done in the early Church, it would be considered the lowest level of ordination. The commission, when formed, should rethink the theology of all ordained ministries, namely, ordination of bishops, priests, deacons and deaconesses. There is a need to move away from hierarchical theology to the theology of service based on a person’s gifts ... We can learn from other churches who have struggled with this issue for years ... and learn from the mistakes they’ve made, namely, that ordination is not an ordination to a particular level of power. Rather it should mean ordination to different types of service based on the person’s innate gifts and talents. Some women will be called to be deacons. Others to be priests. And still others could be selected by the community to be their bishop.”