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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The council of cardinal-advisors to Pope Francis, known as the Gang of Nine, met on Monday and Tuesday and officially petitioned the Holy Father to create two new departments in the Vatican: the Department of Laity, Family and Life, and the Department of Justice, Peace and Migration.
They were initially brought up in September 2014 and also last October after the Synod on the Family in Rome.
In 1973 Pope Paul VI formed the Committee for the Family. In 1981 Pope St. John Paul II expanded it, renaming it the Pontifical Council on the Family. Now, the Department of Laity, Family and Life — if Pope Francis raises this new organization to a dicastery — will replace the previous council and will have authority to decide certain cases within its competence. As a pontifical council it only had authority to study matters and advise. It held no official weight in rendering decisions in specific situations.
A dicastery or congregation is officially a part of the Vatican government, known as the Curia, assisting the Pope in his administration over the universal Church. While a dicastery's judgment is considered authoritative, some situations can be appealed directly to the Pope, while others have no appeal and the matter is considered to be decided.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston spoke as the head of the Commission for the Protection of Minors. He updated Pope Francis and his council on the commission's activities and its future plans. No mention was made of Peter Saunders, the layman on the commission who was put on a leave of absence last week. A Vatican statement said, "It was decided that Mr. Peter Saunders would take a leave of absence from his membership to consider how he might best support the commission's work."
Saunders maintains he is still a member of the commission, and since he was appointed by the Pope, it's a matter he will only speak to him about. He claims he didn't know about his leave of absence until the Vatican's statement was released.
"I was asked to consider my role or what my role should be with the commission. ... I did not make a decision to take or accept any decision on a leave of absence. I said I would reflect on what I would do."
The Secretariat of State and the Pontifical Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments are also facing future reforms, but it's maintained that there haven't been any definite decisions made.
The Roman Rota, the Vatican's supreme court, also presented updated canonical processes for the validity of marriage.
Pope Francis appointed new heads to the Secretariat of Communication, where it's expected Vatican Radio and Vatican Television will be merged. Vatican Radio has been operating at a loss for many years now; in 2005, it cost the Vatican $40 million and had virtually no revenue coming in. Losses continued through 2015.
The Holy Father will ultimately decide the fate of the new dicasteries, and although he sat in on the meeting of the cardinals, it's not yet known when he will render a final decision.